The list of greats who have gone through the U18 CFBB Paris system is long and features some of France’s all-time best. Timothe Crusol is honored to currently be part of the institution, but he is hoping to do even bigger things than those who came before him. Over the past two decades, CFBB – which used to be known in competitions as INSEP – has produced stars such as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, Evan Fournier, Joffrey Lauvergne, Alexis Ajinca, Antoine Diot, Livio Jean-Charles and Leo Westermann.
"Being in INSEP is an honor for me. So many great players were there. At the same time, I tell myself that I must do as good as them or better," Crusol said.
The point guard has already accomplished quite a bit before celebrating his 17th birthday earlier this month. Last year, he had a reserve role with CFBB as it won the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT title in Istanbul. It was CFBB’s second U18 continental championship.
"Going to Istanbul, I took a lot of experience thanks to my teammates. The final was just amazing and the title was awesome," said Crusol, who did not play in CFBB’s 65-58 win over U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade in the ANGT Championship Game.
Last summer, Crusol averaged 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals in helping France win the championship at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017. It was France’s third cadet title alongside wins in 2004 and 2014.
"The European Championship was a great moment because it was the culmination of a whole preparation. We went through a lot as a team and winning the title was great," said Crusol, who will now have a chance to play at this summer’s FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 in Argentina. The U16 performance also gave Crusol added confidence coming into this season.
"It helped me to be sure of myself at the beginning of the season because I had a good feeling,” he said.
The 1.85-meter playmaker has been playing the game since he was 4 years old - thanks in large part to his father Sebastien Crusol, who played professionally for a few years in France.
"When I was young, I loved to follow my father in the gym, and I never stopped because I love the game," Crusol said. "When I was growing up I liked Kobe Bryant, I liked the way he played. I still watch videos of him. But I also watch videos of Nando De Colo, because when he plays he makes it look easy."
Crusol’s father also played a big role in his development. "He was the person who made me start to love basketball. When I was young he led my training and gave me a lot of advice to improve. But today he just encourages me and he leaves me in the hands of coaches," said Crusol, a native of Saint-Jean-de-Braye in north-central France.
Basketball takes second fiddle to soccer in Crusol’s hometown, which made it clear he would have to move elsewhere to take the next step in his development. And it wasn’t a hard choice for him when deciding to attend INSEP in Paris.
"I believed then and now I know it’s the best framework for the development of a player in France," he said. "We have everything we need on the site. And we have a very good high school. Everything is there to flourish."
Crusol has had plenty of chances to flourish this season for CFBB as most of the stars of last year’s team have moved on, including Ivan Fevrier, Theo Maledon, Yanik Blanc, Sofiane Briki and Joel Ayayi.
"This one season we have learned a lot in the team, and we are taking the experience of the games in the [third division] NM1," Crusol said.
This season saw CFBB actually win a game in the NM1, beating Loudres 71-67 to snap a 58-game losing streak dating back to April 2016 - including the entire 34-game 2016-17 season.
"We were very happy to have finally won a game. This is rare at CFBB,” said Crusol, who collected 14 points and 9 assists in the victory. "It is obviously hard to lose all those games, but everyone learns from their mistakes and we improve."
That win over Loudres came after CFBB picked up two victories at ANGT Kaunas, where the team finished fifth and Crusol averaged 10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 0.8 steals. CFBB was awarded a wild card for the ANGT Finals in Belgrade and Crusol and the team cannot wait.
"My teammates and I are so eager to go to Belgrade to show what we are worth," he said.
CFBB has been drawn into Group A with 2012 champion U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade and 2015 title-winner U18 Real Madrid. Crusol believes the game against Mega will be especially interesting since many players from both sides are back after last year’s ANGT Championship Game.
"I think it will be a very interesting game because they will want to take their revenge from last year, and it will be up to us to show even more toughness,” Crusol said.
CFBB is heading to Belgrade with one thought on its mind: becoming the first team to repeat as champion since U18 FMP in 2008 and 2009. "It would be a first for CFBB to win twice in a row, and we would be proud of ourselves and our work," Crusol said.
And it would mean Crusol has accomplished something none of those previous CFBB greats had done before.