Without Vassilis Spanoulis or Felipe Reyes on the bill for the first time in three decades, the Euroleague has been solemnly undercapitalized – 715 games, 32 seasons and 80 years added between the two – but the continental competition continues to fuel the future of basketball. On the starting grid of the course that starts today, the imposing figure of Victor Wembanyama stands out. The 17-year-old, 2.20m, French pivot signed for Asvel Villeurbanne this summer and, after a measured and dazzling journey through the training categories, reaches the elite with the indelible NBA badge marked before starting. “Victor is a unique player in the world, he is the best young talent in French basketball in the last twenty years”, Tony Parker, four-time NBA champion and president of the French club, affirmed without hesitation. “He has everything to make a great career and the opportunity to be a future number one in the draft of the NBA. We will do everything possible to consolidate your development, boost your progress and help you achieve your goals “, concluded Parker in the presentation of the young promise, destined to make the americas in a jiffy, in 2023 according to the deadlines set.
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The moment he steps onto the court in the Asvel jersey, Wembanyama will become the 101st minor to make his Euroleague debut this century. A list headed by Montenegrin guard Fedor Zugic – who in 2019 with Buducnost became, at 15 years, five months and six days, the youngest debutant in the history of the competition (he now plays in the German Bundesliga) -, and in which there are precocious talents such as Ricky Rubio, Marco Belinelli, Luka Doncic, Luigi Datome, Danilo Gallinari, Domantas Sabonis, Georgios Printezis, Ersan Ilyasova and Mario Hezonja. All debuted in the continental elite between the ages of 16 and 17. A roster of recognized and unknown players, consolidated and lost. A journey that goes from circumstantial and improvised alternatives due to necessity, to planned quarry structures organized by generations and positions. That is the tutored path that Wembanyama has followed since he was discovered by Nanterre scouts at a fry game at Versailles. With just 10 years of age, the creature was already 1.80m tall. After having tried as a soccer and judoka goalkeeper, his stretch broke all the percentiles and left him with the perfect biotype to play basketball. The gemologists of this sport radiograph him as a cross between Kristaps Porzingis and Rudy Gobert, for versatility and intimidation; with strokes by Kevin Durant and Arvydas Sabonis, for subtlety and knowledge of the game. Bigger words for irrepressible talent. “I like all of them because they show that size does not prevent you from knowing how to play basketball. They don’t have a stereotypical game, ”Wembanyama explains, modestly resolving the comparisons before unleashing his ambition. “My goal is to go to the NBA, to get as high as possible. I don’t want to prove anything, but I don’t want to be disappointed either. That is my mentality ”.
The son of a former French international basketball player and a Congolese long jump specialist, Wembanyama was invited by Barcelona to play the 2018 Mini Cup in Las Palmas. At that time he was just 14 years old and he was 2.05m tall. “At that tournament I saw an alien. Seeing someone his size with such mobility and resources is impressive. Being so young and so big, you were facing an agile player, with tact, with a very good shooting genetics … It was amazing. There is no promise in the world more interesting than him, in any age and continent ”, reviews José Luis Pichel, the training coach who received Doncic as a child in Madrid. “If the greats of Europe did not sign him, it was because he did not want to leave his environment,” continues Pichel. The structure of Barça, with Juan Llaneza as director of scouting and Pere Capdevila as head of the quarry, tried unsuccessfully to get him to join La Masia and the Barça youth basketball training program. The family preferred that it grow in its natural ecosystem and the French federation opted to keep their jewel at home as a question of state. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen such talent in France. And frankly, I’ve rarely seen it in the world. At his age and with that height he can shoot and do many things. And above all, he is very intelligent ”, certifies Rudy Gobert.
In the summer of 2019, Wembanyama was the last wall that the Spanish team of Juan Núñez and Rubén Domínguez had to overcome to achieve gold in the European Under-16. That year, the French prodigy made his debut in a Eurocup match at the age of 15 years, nine months and 25 days. Although his debut in the French league did not come until almost a year later, in September 2020. He responded to expectations and was voted the best youngster of the season in the French league. His mentors say that the knowledge of the game and the trade comes from his interest in the history of basketball and reference players. The coaches explain that her good touch and surprising wrist shows her with the ball and also with her drawing skills. “He can dribble, team up with his teammates, build team play … He plays almost like an outsider and his skill is incredible for a tall man. He learns very quickly ”, details Pascal Donnadieu, his coach at Nanterre. In July, Wembanyama faced all the young promises of the United States, two years older than him, in the final of the U19 World Cup. France was defeated, but their jewel won the definitive admiration of the NBA with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocks in 27 minutes on the court. In front he had the most talents that will take over the next draft. TO Wembanyama will touch him in 2023, where they already predict that he will emulate Andrea Bargnani, the first European to reach number 1 and the sixth non-American player to do so. For now, Wembanyama’s next challenge is to compete in the Euroleague with number one on the Asvel Villeurbanne jersey.
😱 44 d’éval ‘pour Victor 😱
Pour they are the first match of l’ANGT, Victor a été great with an impressive line of stats in seulement 24 minutes:
🏀 18 points
🏀 16 rebonds
🏀 6 counters
🏀 6 interceptions
🏀 44 d’évaluation
– Nanterre 92 (@ Nanterre92) February 7, 2020