French national team guard and recently-crowned MVP of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, Philippines says he was overwhelmed by the Filipino support for his team throughout the event.
Though De Colo shared that he knew about the country’s passion for basketball before traveling to Manila, he still felt surprised after getting a first-hand experience of it.
“It was a great experience. We knew before coming here that Philippines fans for long love basketball but seriously, I couldn’t imagine how they respect the game and they know all the players,” De Colo said on Sunday after France defeated Canada, 83-74, to secure a passage to the Rio Olympics.
De Colo, who scored 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting in the final, averaged 17.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.2 APG in the tournament to bag MVP honors.
“It was a great experience to play here, and after Philippines went out of the competition, they were with us. It was great,” he said.
De Colo said that as expected, the Les Bleus had a “tough game” against Canada but managed to limit the Road Warriors’ strengths.
“It was a tough game like we expected. We knew they have really good quality and athleticism. The first point coach mentioned was stop their fastbreak and that’s what we did,” he said.
The 29-year-old reigning EuroLeague MVP also gave credit to veterans like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, who helped him develop his game.
“Now we know each other very well after all the summers together. Every summer we try to improve our game. When you play these likes of players, it’s always easy for me to play my game,” De Colo said.
“We know like I say better how to play together.”
De Colo added he will cherish the experience of playing in the Olympics again.
“This summer, it was not easy the way to go (to the Olympics) just like every time. We keep fighting and get experience year after year,” he shared.
“You know, to finish this game with the ticket to Rio is something special. For an athlete, it is special to go to the Olympic games.”