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Victor Wembanyama headlines France's preliminary roster for Paris Olympics

With Victor Wembanyama as the focal point, France head coach Vincent Collet announced an extended list of 19 players on Thursday for his preliminary roster for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Fresh off winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award, the 7-foot-3 Wembanyama will bolster France's medal aspirations alongside key players like Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier.

In Gobert and Wembanyama, France boasts two of the NBA's best defensive players. Gobert won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award for the fourth time of his career, narrowly beating out Wembanyama.

"The key to building the team will be establishing an uncompromising defense," Collet said at a news conference. "We have profiles that excel in this area."

The roster, to be trimmed to 12 players for the tournament, includes newcomers Bilal Coulibaly, Ousmane Dieng, and Killian Hayes, who all also played in the NBA this season.

Notably, the list features five point guards, compensating for the absence of Thomas Heurtel, who has played the position regularly for France for the last decade but is left out because of his Russian club affiliation.

The French team, which took silver in Tokyo, will play a number of tough opponents in warmup games before the tournament, including Turkey, Germany, Serbia, Canada, and Australia.

At the Olympics, France will be in Group B alongside Germany, Japan, and the winner of an upcoming qualifying tournament.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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