With the additional Qualification round of the 2009 Eurobasket having started last week, one name has emerged in the French press that has already been followed by the experts for a long time but more than 30 different articles have been written about the current back-up PG of the French National Team.
Antoine Diot has been followed since his early years and considered as the next French European-style PG. He was a member of the different Youth National Teams and collected an amazing number of Medals and titles. U16 European Champion 2004, U16 European Vice-Champion and MVP 2005, Albert-Schweitzer Tournament Champion 2006, U18 European Champion 2006, Bronze Medal at the U19 World Championship 2007 and finally a Silver Medal and an All-Tournament Team spot at the U20 European Championship in 2009. With the absence of Tony Parker for the first games of the Additional Qualification Round this summer, Senior NT Head Coach Vincent Collet called the young Le Mans PG for his first selection. And the least one could say is that Antoine (hey, that name remembers me somebody) did not satisfy the expectations.
After a calm scoring game for the opener in Italy where he however scored his 4 only points through ultra-crucial free-throws in Overtime, a quality rarely seen these days by French players, Antoine Diot was the unofficial MVP of the home game against a tough Finnish team where he finished with 16pts, 3rebs, 4asts and 2stls. But more than the lonely numbers, Diot impressed with his natural leadership skills which he could immediately use on the Senior level as well. He imposes himself clearly as the back-up PG for the upcoming Eurobasket (if France qualifies) behind Tony Parker. Because he showed more offensive skills than Aymeric Jeaneau in the organizing backup PG role behind the Spur, Diot looks like being the most likely candidate to stay with the team. Next to all his know forces as hustle, defense and set play, Antoine Diot has now also the necessary confidence in his shot which falls on a regular basis, the result of hard work over the last years.
But these results do not really surprise if you check back what Diot has already achieved at the age of only 20 years. You must of course consider that he was born in the highly talented generation of the Batum, Ajinca,… but he also showed that in the years where he was not surrounded by these already NBA players, he led the respective French U16 and U20 team to a Silver Medal. When you go back to 2005 at a time that this site did not even exist, and you check what Draftexpress’ Luis Fernandez wrote on him, you could imagine what was coming up now exactly 4 years later.
I personally think that he’s a very promising player. He might raise serious doubts because of his skills, having dominated because of his physical set. Indeed that’s what happened up to a certain extent. But he’s a player that is so focused on the game, so serious about what he does, that I think he will be able to sort out most of his skill limitations. At least, I trust him a lot more than other players who are more skilled but showed highly questionable attitudes.
A description that could not have been any better and that is still valid these days. Antoine Diot may not be the most physically gifted player, he might not be an outrageous athlete nor is he a terrific shooter or highly creative passer, but Diot makes the plays and makes his team better.
In 2007, he translated this leadership skills over to the U18 level as I reported back then from Douai.
Even if he is one of the younger guys on the court, he is the vocal leader of the team. He has no problems to tell everybody what they should do.
Jonathan Givony had the same opinion when he toured through Europe in 2007 and when he scouted Diot during a French League game.
He did more than just being mature beyond his years, though. Diot also had an excellent game, playing solid defense, getting in the passing lanes, pushing the ball up the floor, and also doing a terrific job running the offense, something his team has sorely been lacking from what we’ve seen. Diot very calmly moved the ball around, doing an outstanding job in particular on the pick and roll, coming up with a game high 6 assists in 26 minutes. He’s a fairly athletic player with great size for the point (6-4) and a nice frame for a guy his age, although his inconsistent perimeter stroke is a real hindrance if he’s to develop into a serious NBA prospect over the next few years. Diot sometimes has problems with his decision making in the half-court, but on this particular evening, he was as cool and calm an 18-year old as you’ll find anywhere on the continent.
The shooting problems that were still alive back in 2007 seem however to be a distant memory from the past. If you compare the percentages that Diot shot from behind the three point line, you will see that he has dramatically improved. During the 2007-2008 season, he finished with an atrocious 18.2% in ProA while in the Euroleague, he made only 16.7% of his attempts. In the 2008-2009 season, these numbers have already improved as he connected 36.7% in French League action while he shot at 30.8% from behind the arc in the Euroleague. Also at the recent U20 European Championship, Antoine Diot finished the tournament with a good 20 out 45 attempts from three point area. Which underlines a fact that you can see in his league stats as well as his play off percentages are a lot higher than during the regular season (57.1% versus 36.7% in 2008/09 on 3pt Field Goal attempts).
Now the next steps that Diot has to take is to gain the necessary leadership to also take over the Starting and most influent PG job at Le Mans. He will share the play maker duties this season with Zack Wright and they need to overcome some tough teams like ALBA Berlin when they want to qualify for the Euroleague this season. But first of all, Antoine Diot wants to gain his spot in a potential Eurobasket team and eventually add another Medal to his collection.