By Antonis Stroggylakis/ [email protected]
Cologne, Germany – “For us to be successful, we have to understand that…he’s the perfect example of how to play winning ball,” French superstar Evan Fournier said after his national team’s second-round win over Lithuania of the EuroBasket.
Who is the man Fournier is talking about, you might be wondering. Who is the player he, as a go-to-guy and one of the hottest players in the French national team, praises this way. Let him describe his way of playing and his behavior on the pitch as a guide for the rest of the team.
Fournier’s comment was not about any of the defactored leaders, the veterans or the experienced and seasoned players. It was for the newcomer to the national team, new to international tournaments and until then almost unknown – at least for people outside France – Terry Tarpey. One of the x factors in the victory of the French team, like an ace hidden in the sleeve of coach Vincent Collet.
“I guess for some people it’s ‘out of nowhere but I’ve worked for this moment all my life,’ Tarpey said, all smiles, after the game. “And I’m glad I was able to help. team tonight and bring that energy and everything we needed.”
Tarpey, was a starter and had quite the winning impact on the stretch for France, especially on the defensive end. With six minutes to play and his team trailing 60-57, Tarpey stole the ball and hit a 3-pointer for the corner to level the score. He then managed a big defense on Ignas Brazdeikis with a counter.
Lithuania struggled to score as Tarpey continued to be an ever-present defensive presence. He stole another ball and, on the other side of the field, Thomas Heurtel hit the jumper for the 64 – 69.
“It’s just my style of play,” Tarpey said. He finished with eight points, four rebounds and four steals. “Now people in France are starting to appreciate what I can do without the ball in my hands. I love basketball and I love doing that stuff.
France did not get “just a victory” in the second round of a EuroBasket group stage with four games left to play. The powerhouse clash was a must-do for a French side who had just lost and horrific performances against Germany in the opening leg of the ‘Group of Death’ which also includes defending champions Slovenia. A defeat at the hands of Lithuania would not only drop the Blues 0-2 in the toughest EuroBasket group, but also force them to face mounting pressure.
That’s why Tarpey’s contribution was so valuable and appreciated by players like Fournier who, by the way, drove in 27 points.
“We improved just about everything,” Tarpey said. “The Lithuanians are a very good team. We knew we had to bounce back from the loss to Germany. We shot better. We cut harder. We played more physically. We took pictures. Rudy [Gobert] did what he had to do. It’s kind of crazy to talk about Rudy like that and have him as one of my best friends and teammates.
Tarpey, born in France to former player Terry Tarpey and Ann Dzenutis, was named to France’s preliminary 17-man squad ahead of the 2023 World Cup qualifiers. He had averaged 8 .5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists with Le Mans in the 2021-22 French Jeep Elite League.
French assistant Pascal Donnadieu strongly vouched for him and lobbied for him to join the training camp. But most expected Tarpey to be knocked out early and not make the EuroBasket squad. Including Fournier.
“I’m not going to lie,” the New York Knicks winger said. “When the first group of players for the preparation came out in July, we had 17 players. In my head, I was already thinking of the 12 finals. And I’m like, ‘He’s gone.’ »
Far from it in fact. Tarpey didn’t go anywhere. He worked hard and made enough of an impression to keep his spot on the roster. His strong performances in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers sealed it as Collet began to see he brings things like toughness, scrap and physicality that can be invaluable to the team.
“I have to admit that I didn’t think he would make the final team,” Collet said. ” I was not sure. But what he did during the camp and the first games gave us the idea that he could be a piece. It’s a new team and it’s important that everyone can find their role. Terry is one of those who have already found it.
Now Tarpey is part of the squad and embraced by members of the rest of the national team.
“They just treat me like one of their own,” Tarpey said. “It’s really important, especially because of my background and being a Franco-American that kind of thing. They accept me as one of their own. It’s really important and it just gives me a bit of comfort. energy and motivation to play hard for them.
Tarpey joined a French team that finished second in the Olympics last year and, understandably, is playing to win it all down the road. Nothing but the gold medal will be completely satisfactory for the Blues.
“It’s not too intimidating for me because I always set my goals and my goals and I’m really high,” Tarpey said. “I want to play for gold now and I want to play for the championship with Le Mans. I love playing these kinds of games and playing on the road, and it felt like playing on the road tonight.
“It’s funny. Tonight I was myself, brought intensity and hit open shots. They can expect me to be myself next time too.