Dimanche uses lockdown to recharge, re-motivate… and catch fish
To encourage the development of more young local talents, the Basketball Champions League requires its teams to register at least 5 Home Grown Players on the game score sheet (if 11 or more players listed, otherwise 4 if the roster has 10 or fewer players). Many of these players are considered top level talents in their respective countries and I will be taking a look at some of them over the course of the season.
CHOLET (France) - Don't be surprised if you look at Karlton Dimanche and see a different look in his eye, a different fire burning deep down as he makes his Basketball Champions League debut. The Cholet talent has entered the 2020-21 season with a recharged battery and a renewed motivation - thanks to some fishing back home.
Dimanche went scoreless in 3:17 minutes with only a missed shot in his first-ever BCL game against Tsmoki Minsk. While it may not have been the start he had hoped for, it was still a step forward and a promise of things to come after a disappointment last year.
Karlton Dimanche looking on in his BCL debut against Tsmoki Minsk
Dimanche had a 2019-20 season he would like to forget - one in which his hopes on the court were not realized and ended up being a lost year. As it turns out, the Covid-19 pandemic which sent the world into lockdown might have been exactly what the Cholet guard talent needed.
Before addressing how and where Dimanche spent his time during the Covid-19 lockdown, it's necessary to give the background as to why last season was one the 6ft 4in (1.93m) guard was glad to put behind him.
Winning early on with Killian Hayes
Dimanche sailed through Cholet's youth ranks after joining the organization in 2015. Sure, it helped that he was playing alongside star prospect Killian Hayes. But Dimanche was more than just Robin to Hayes' Batman in guiding Cholet to the French U17 cup crown in 2017. Both players also played on Cholet's U21 team that season and the following campaign. And in 2018-19, Dimanche also got some playing time with Cholet's senior team in the ProA - again, alongside Hayes.
Dimanche said coming up through the Cholet ranks with Hayes helped him.
"I learned that sometimes, you need to think about yourself on the court," said Dimanche, who appeared in 19 ProA games in 2018-19 and averaged 1.2 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 5.5 minutes a contest.
Collecting international hardware
That preceded yet another strong and successful summer for Dimanche with France's youth national team ranks. In the summer of 2018, Dimanche and France lost twice in the group stage of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 in Latvia but still reached the Semi-Finals. There they lost to eventual champions Serbia but ended up knocking off Russia for third place.
"I was very proud to achieve that result. We had a talented team, especially on defense and as a collective," said Dimanche, who averaged 8.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.9 steals. "We proved that France were still among the best three countries in Europe at that level of competition. It was well-deserved."
The spot in the top five also earned France a berth in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 in Greece. France defeated Canada to reach the Semi-Finals for just the second time in the country's history. But in the semis, France ran into a Mali team that was the feel-good story of the tournament - not to mention a side that was playing excellent basketball. France ended up losing 76-73, though they rebounded to once again take home the bronze medal by defeating Lithuania in the Third Place Game 73-68. Dimanche averaged 9.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals for the tournament.
Hardware was nothing new to Dimanche. In addition to the French U17 cup from 2017 - where he was named the MVP - Dimanche also was French U18 champion in 2017 and 2018 and the French U21 Espoirs champion in 2018 and 2019, being named to the Best Five in 2019. And Dimanche was the MVP of the French U23 championship in 2019.
Extension and expectations
Shortly after the U19 World Cup, Cholet announced in late July 2019 that Dimanche had agreed to a three-year extension with the club. Things were looking up and the youngster was ready to be a real part of the rotation in 2019-20 for Erman Kunter, who was head coach the previous season as well.
View this post on Instagram
Dimanche opened the season playing 14 minutes versus Roanne but then got on the court just six minutes combined the next two games. He shined against Boulazac, hitting all five of his shots in scoring 11 points to go with 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 15 minutes. Those points, shots attempted, rebounds and minutes totals all ended up being season highs.
Dimanche did manage to play at least 10 minutes five times in the next eight games, averaging 9.6 minutes over the stretch until early December. But then collected just 33 minutes over eight appearances in Cholet's following 11 games. Cholet even sent him back down to the U21 junior team to give him some confidence, averaging 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals in eight games.
"For me, I lost a year because I wasn't playing," said Dimanche, who averaged 1.5 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 7.1 minutes of 20 games last season. "I failed in my first professional year. That season was very complicated because when you don't play, you lose confidence in yourself."
Pandemic a welcome relief?
Dimanche played five minutes - with 1 rebound - in Cholet's loss against Limoges on March 7, which ended up being the club's final game of the season as the Covid-19 outbreak and pandemic shut down the remainder of the French season. In light of everything going on, Dimanche decided instead of staying in France to return to his homeland French Guiana to visit his family.
It had been two years since he was in the French department off the northeastern coast of South America, which he left originally back in 2015 to join Cholet. French Guiana gave Dimanche a chance to recharge his battery, re-motivate himself and get reacquainted with his home culture.
Dimanche's mother played basketball, meaning he grew up around the sport. But his father played football and his uncles played volleyball. Dimanche himself played football at French Guiana powers Club Colonial until he was 9 years old, when he chose basketball. He also had played volleyball. From 2006 to 2011, Dimanche was with US Sinnamary and then he moved to ASC Tours.
Despite being a relatively unknown country on the basketball landscape, the nation of about 290,000 people has produced two NBA players - Kevin Seraphin and Damien Inglis - and a third who was drafted by an NBA franchise - Livio Jean-Charles.
Kevin Seraphin is the No. 1 for many in his homeland French Guiana
Seraphin, who played 437 NBA games for Washington, New York and Indiana from 2010 to 2017, is held in extremely high regard back in his homeland.
"His career is exceptional for us people from Guiana. The regional administration built a hall in his name," said Dimanche. "To me, he's an icon. I have spent time with him on multiple occasions."
But Seraphin's legacy in French Guiana is much more than just playing in the NBA. Since 2010, he holds an annual basketball camp back at home every summer, and it was at this Camp Guyastars where Dimanche got his big break. Cholet youth coaches spotted him as a 14-year-old at the camp and wanted to bring him to France.
The summer of 2020 saw Dimanche back home among his family and friends back home.
"I spent my lockdown in Guiana, to recharge. I talked to my parents a lot. I worked out physically with my uncle and my parents. I was working on my shot twice a day not far from home," said Dimanche.
But he also reconnected with the culture of his childhood - a single child until he was 14 years old after which two sisters followed, now ages 5 and 6.
Doing what Guianese do
"I rediscovered the local culture, I ate local food, went to the rivers or the sea to fish for grouper," he said.
"My parents had a boat and often took me with them fishing, catching different local fish - grouper, grey snapper or African sea catfish. Fishing is a tradition and a hobby in Guiana. If you don't fish and eat fish, it's because you're not Guyanese," says Dimanche with a smile.
The downtime away from the disappointment and turmoil was good for him.
"It was really enriching for me," he said.
It also gave him time to reflect on what had happened in his first season as a professional.
View this post on Instagram
"Things went fast for me, from U17 to U20. Sometimes you need to accept that things do not go your way, work hard and start again. I have faith and that's exactly what I am doing: I have gone back and worked hard to earn some minutes," Dimanche said.
Back at it in France
After two months with his family and local fish, it was time for Dimanche to return to France. He rested a couple of days upon arriving back in Europe and then left for a 15-day camp with his agency Comsport.
"I think I gained some self-confidence and also developed myself physically," said Dimanche, who had a chance to work out in the summer with Inglis.
The summer lockdown also meant that Dimanche did not play with the French national team, which he would have likely had done at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2020. And while playing with the national team gives a player a chance to see his level from an international standpoint, it doesn't allow for much time to work out individually.
"This year, I was able to work on my weak points more," he said.
Staying with Cholet, position switch
Dimanche announced in the summer that he would be staying with Cholet and was ready to compete for more minutes. He worked with Cholet assistant coach Sylvain Delorme on his shot as the club is using him at the shooting guard position as well his more natural point guard spot.
"I am getting used to the position even though point guard is still the position I personally prefer," he said.
One issue his Dimanche's outside shot - or lack of one. While he is solid from inside the three-point line, connecting on 61.1 percent on 2-pointers last season in the ProA and 66.7 percent at the U21 level, Dimanche has not developed his game from the outside. He hit just 11-of-46 three-pointers or 23.9 percent at the U21 level in 2018-19 while missing both of his ProA three-point attempts. He missed all five of his three-pointers in the two levels last season and he is yet to take a three-pointer in five ProA contests this season.
Thus far, things are going better for Dimanche. He has played at least 18 minutes three times as he is averaging 3.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 15.6 minutes. And now he also has a chance to get a taste of international club basketball in the BCL.
"I'm very excited to be there because it's a first for me, and a comeback (to international competition) for Cholet. This will offer me an additional experience," he said.
And it will give BCL fans to see a different look in his eyes after going through a tough season last year.