|21 July 2013|
|Damien Inglis is ready to lead France all the way to the final|
By Robert White
France's undefeated start to the U18 European Championship has been characterised by highflying dunks, frenetic fast breaks and flashy no-look passes.
Easily one of the most exciting teams in Latvia, the player that stands out for the French side is swingman Damien Inglis.
Inglis has an all-round game that mixes a versatile skill set with highlight worthy athleticism.
France impressed during the First Round and Inglis' full potential has yet to be put completely on display.
The French cruised past Lithuania in the opening Group A match, but Inglis suffered through an off night. He made just two of nine shots from the field, but found other ways to help his team by grabbing six rebounds and handing out seven assists.
Too good to be bothered by the mini-slump, Inglis came out in the second game against Serbia and provided a star performance.
"The first game was bad for me, but my teammate Charly Pontens carried the offence," Inglis said.
"I went to practice on Friday and worked on my shot and tried to stay positive and I had a great game; my teammates had a great game."
Inglis turned in one of the performances of the tournament - scoring 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists as France edged an undermanned Serbia 65-62.
Having already locked up a spot in the Second Round, head coach Tahar Assed-Liegeon opted to rest Inglis and give France's lesser used players an opportunity to prove themselves. They did just that as Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot and William Pfister led the charge in their 66-51 win over Slovenia.
As France advance into the Second Round, Inglis is simply looking to help out in whatever way he can.
"My biggest strength is I'm a team player. I play for the team; try to score, try to pass. If I'm having a good day I can help out by attacking the ring. When things aren't going for me I'll focus on defence."
Inglis' talent resembles some of the world's top players, so it comes as no surprise that the 2.04m forward is a student of the game.
"I'd like to develop into a player like LeBron James, I thinks we're similar," he said.
"He's tall with skills - passing, post-up... I watch videos of him to see what I can copy.
"In the Euroleague I like to watch and learn from Stratos Perperoglou from Olympiacos and, of course, I like French stars Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum."
Inglis is looking to build on a year in which he developed so much that he moved from playing the power forward position full-time to a permanent role as a combo guard/small forward.
Having recently signed a three-year deal to play with French Pro A club Roanne, Inglis knows there remains a lot of work ahead of him. Until then, he and his teammates have just one goal.
"We want the Gold. Our only aim is the Gold. It's time to do our jobs."