While in Treviso, Italy, attending adidas Eurocamp earlier this month, Pro Insight’s Jason Filippi had the opportunity to catch up with upcoming French prospect Tidjane Salaun. This has been a big year for the elite wing, which included standout performances at Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Salt Lake City as well as the adidas Next Generation Tournament. In order to get to know him better for this interview, we spoke a bit about his past, his present and his future.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2005-born prospect Tidjane Salaun, from Choisy-le-Roi, France:
Pro Insight: Tidjane, tell us a bit more about your basketball career thus far — when and where did you start to play?
Tidjane Salaun: I started to first play organized basketball when I was seven years old in some small local teams in the Paris suburbs where I was born. Then I played five years at Charenton where I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of some very talented players that included (future NBA prospects) Pacome Dadiet and Mohamed Diawara. In 2021 I moved to Cholet where I am currently playing.
PI: You are considered one of the top International prospects born in 2005 but just two years ago you were still relatively unknown. I think that you have improved a lot since then, especially over the past year. Two years ago, you had a smaller role with Cholet while this year you were the MVP of the French Trophee’ du Futur (French U18 Championships). What has changed for you since then?
TS: Well, first of all, I have matured a lot both mentally and physically. I grew a couple more inches and added some mass to my body. I worked out all last summer with trainers and coaches provided to me by my agent.
PI: Well it looks like all the hard work is paying off now. In particular, it seems to me that you worked a lot on your shot.
TS: We worked on everything: my body, my fundamentals in general and also my shot.
PI: Do you follow a special diet?
TS: Yes, my family, my agent and coaches have helped me improve my eating habits which includes eliminating fast food from my diet. In general, I am trying to take good care of my body – I also have made a habit of stretching more regularly and just doing other things to improve my flexibility.
PI: This past year, in addition to having had great success with the Cholet Junior team, you participated in the BWB Europe camp in Milan and again at the BWB Global event in Salt Lake City followed by competing in the adidas Next Generation Tournament in Patras. Now you are at the adidas Eurocamp in Treviso for the first time. What is your impression of the camp thus far?
TS: It is definitely exciting and it is very motivating for me to compete against so many good players. Facing tougher opponents is the best way to improve and with players from so many different countries and backgrounds I am also learning new styles of play. As a bonus, this experience also gives me an opportunity to improve my English.
PI: You have already played against several other participants in this camp at some of the big international events we spoke about before — have you started to become friends with anyone?
TS: To be honest, not really. I kind of keep to myself and still view everyone as an opponent. I am very competitive and I want to beat everyone at everything.
PI: Let's talk about the future, now. Where do you see yourself five years from now? I know you have caught the eye of a lot of college teams, have you given much thought about going to the USA to play college basketball?
TS: I really have not thought that much ahead. I have not been formally approached by any college teams for the moment. Right now, I am really mostly just focused on next season with Cholet and the possibility of joining the pro team already. In the future obviously the Euroleague and then the NBA are my true goals. It may take one year, two years or longer but the NBA is definitely my ultimate goal.
PI: Have you practiced with the Cholet pro team much already and what was it like?
TS: Yes, I have already practiced with pro several times and it has been very stimulating for me. I feel that I am actually ready from a physical standpoint. I just need to adapt to the higher intensity level and more importantly the speed of the game at the pro level which is so much quicker than at the youth levels. You really need to make some split-second decisions at the pro level.
PI: Is there one specific player after which you model your game or that you use as a reference or an inspiration?
TS: Definitely Evan Fournier because he is such a hard worker. He is an inspiration to me because he started to play at my former club Charenton. He has come to visit us and I have spoken with him several times. He has tried to give me a lot of advice on things and I think he is definitely a great role model.