Moving from the countryside to the big city to pursue a basketball career is one thing. But INSEP Paris big man Jonathan Jeanne took a voyage of more than 6,700 kilometers from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to the French capital for the hardwood. And he was just 15 years old.
“I remember it was very difficult. In Guadeloupe I had my family, and when I arrived in France, I didn’t have them,” said Jeanne, who made the trip to France in September 2012. “My family could not go to France because it was so far away. It was so scary before, but now it’s normal for me.”
Jeanne and his family decided it would be best to send him to France and the INSEP Paris institute because of its great reputation of developing players. “My family said I played basketball very well and said I need to go to France because this is the best school for basketball,” Jeanne said of INSEP, which he will leave at the end of this season and play next year with Le Mans.
Jeanne is a giant of a man at 2.12 meters. Before basketball, he dabbled in Guadeloupe in soccer, athletics and swimming. But very soon it was all basketball. “I don’t have a number two. It’s just basketball for me. I don’t know what my second sport was, it’s too long ago,” Jeanne said.
Guadeloupe is the home country to several successful basketball players such as Johan Petro and Mickael Gelabale. In fact, the Pietrus brothers, Florent and Mickael, and Ludovic Vaty are all from his home commune of Les Abymes. Still, Jeanne said he doesn’t know those players personally. “I did not watch basketball growing up. I only started when I came to France,” he admitted.
Adidas Next Generation Tournament fans who remember Jeanne from last season will hardly recognize him - besides of course his never-ending length. Jeanne has bulked up a little bit physically, but he improved his game even more and – most importantly – his confidence. Last season, he averaged 5.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 turnovers and zero blocks in a total of 60 minutes of action. Jeanne spent the summer with the French national team and displayed flashes of what is possible, averaging 4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. His top games were 11 points and 8 rebounds against Japan and then 10 and 6 versus China.
“The Worlds gave me a lot of confidence to show I can play, I can shoot, I can drive. It was really good for me,” Jeanne said.
With the renewed confidence and some additional mass, Jeanne started to become a dominating force. With INSEP at the Kaunas qualifier, he averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds but also collected 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and a menacing 2.8 blocks per game. “[Before,] I didn’t have time to play basketball. But now I have a job playing basketball and to prove to my family and friends that I can play.”
To prove to the family and friends he so missed when he first left Guadeloupe.