The "French Connection" hits Brainerd High School

Several teenagers from France (in white jerseys) made their way to Chattanooga to fine-tune their basketball skills. Photo: WTVC

A dozen teenagers from overseas are fine-tuning their basketball skills at Brainerd High School.

11 of them are from France, the other is from Africa.

They're here because they wanted to play against American competition.

Several people came together to make it happen.

Gerald White coaches up the international players, while David Lino coaches and translates.

Lino is from Paris and came to the states to try out in the NBA's D-League.

He didn't make it, but he and White combined forces. Lino said, "We wanted to do something international. Mix the kids from overseas, just like they are, make them play kids from America."

They scrimmaged against an AAU team Wednesday at Brainerd High School.

The families paid for their children to fly to New York, then drive to Chattanooga/

They are staying at the dorms at Redemption Church, formerly Tennessee Temple.

19-year-old Yanis Alfinif is chasing a lifelong desire. "My dream is to play in the United States, you know. He (Lino) led me to this opportunity," Alfinif said.

White also has connections here.

He played at Auburn with Charles Barkley and coached at UTC under Mack McCarthy. White said the group has had a blast, "And they love Chattanooga. They haven't even seen a lot of Chattanooga. But what they have seen, they got their cameras out.They walked into Brainerd gym, taking pictures. 'Who is Malcolm Mackey, who is Jay Price?'"

Alfinif said he likes the fast-break, one-on-one American style. "We love basketball. In France, we play basketball every day and to play basketball in the U.S, every day too is amazing for us."

White finds a lot of joy as well, "It's a way for me to give back and it's a way for those kids to come in and for us to teach them things that we know."

Lino now lives in Atlanta where he runs his camp.

The 12 teens will spent next week in Atlanta playing other American teens, sight seeing and picking up souvenirs.

It's their first trip to America.

Already, they want to come back.

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