Frank Ntilikina
AP Photo/Aaron Gash

Frank Ntilikina is off to a promising start at the FIBA World Cup and Nicolas Batum sees France’s future in the New York Knicks guard.

France is cruising into the second round of group play at the FIBA World Cup and Frank Ntilikina is a big reason why. The New York Knicks guard is locking down the point of attack defensively and seamlessly fitting into head coach Vincent Collet’s offensive system.

The 21-year-old is starting despite being the youngest player on the roster. His teammate, Nicolas Batum, believes Ntilikina is the future of basketball for his country and he’s excited about what he’s seeing.

“He’s the future of the team. It’s great for him. [Thomas] Heurtel got hurt and now he has to put himself in a big spot to run this team. But he can do it. He has the talent and the personality to run this team and be great,” Batum said via FIBA.

Ntilikina has taken full advantage of his opportunity, displacing Andrew Albicy from the starting lineup after just one game. He’s averaging 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals through the first two games of the World Cup.

Better yet, he’s hitting his threes at a respectable rate (4-for-6) and showing a new-found aggressiveness with the ball in his hands. Collet wants to see Ntilikina continue to attack with confidence and vigor.

“What I wish for him during this competition is to get more confidence,” Collet said. “I am happy because [against Jordan] he didn’t hesitate to take the first open shot he got. We need that. It’s important for us that he can be a real threat. We have some offensive leaders but we need him also to be more aggressive like that.”

Ntilikina came up as a raw prospect in France but developed his game under the tutelage of Collet in Strasbourg. There’s real trust and familiarity between coach and player.

“It’s been great. He helped me a lot in my young career,” Ntilikina said of his long-time mentor and coach. “He threw me out there. It’s special to come back and play for the coach that gave you the opportunity to play your first game as a pro in your first year as a pro. So, it’s special. We are focused on the same goal.”

After wins against Germany and Jordan, France will face the Dominican Republic for a chance to win Group G. The two nations will square off on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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