Evan Fournier vying for spot on France's World Cup team

Nuggets guard heading to Europe to begin training in July
by Aaron Lopez

Training camp is around the corner for Denver Nuggets guard Evan Fournier.

Not in Colorado, but in his native France.

Fournier is leaving for Europe on July 1 to begin training with the French national team in preparation for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup that begins Aug. 30 in Spain.

Fournier, 21, was part of the France’s national team pool last year but was left off the final roster for EuroBasket 2013. Led by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, France captured gold at the tournament in Slovenia.

Considering he has been part of his country’s national team program for several years, Fournier said he was surprised by the coach’s decision last year. He hopes for a different result in the coming months.

“Playing for your country is special, especially in the World Cup,” Fournier said after a workout at Pepsi Center this week. “We have a very good team.”

Parker will not play this summer, but current NBA players Fournier, Nicolas Batum (Portland), Nando De Colo (Toronto), Boris Diaw (San Antonio), Rudy Gobert (Utah) and Kevin Seraphin (Washington) are among the 17 players being considered to compete for France at the World Cup.

Nuggets prospect Joffrey Lauvergne, who led the Euroleague in rebounding for Partizan Belgrade in 2013-14, also is in France’s player pool. Each country can carry 12 players on its final World Cup roster.

Should Fournier make the team, he believes the experience will be beneficial as he prepares for his third NBA season.

“You learn a lot of things,” he said. “The game in Europe is slower, and the court is smaller. You have to make difficult plays to get in a good position. You have to learn a lot of tricks. It’s going to help me, for sure.”

Fournier has been diligent in his offseason training since averaging 8.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 76 games last season. With the exception of a trip to Mexico, he has worked closely with Denver’s athletic training staff for the better part of the past two months.

Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess said Fournier has added 3 inches to his vertical leap and increased his strength by 40 percent since he was drafted in 2012.

“I definitely feel stronger,” Fournier said. “I still have to get stronger because I like to penetrate and get to the paint. You get hit a lot of times. With 82 games, it’s hard. I want to be stronger so I can take the contact better.”

Fournier established himself as a rotation player in 2013-14 and is eager to take another step forward next season.

“I’m happy about the things I did, but I’m sure I could’ve done better,” he said. “But no regrets. I have two years of NBA experience now. It’s going to help me for next season to have a bigger role.”