7ft 4in “once-in-a-millennium” prodigy coming to NBA

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By Creative Media News

The French adolescent has a wing reach of 8 feet and can shoot like a point guard. Very soon, he will compete against the world’s finest athletes.

Tuesday night, over 200 NBA scouts and decision-makers came to Las Vegas to get a glimpse of the future.

Nevada-based NBA development squad G League Ignite hosted French club Metropolitans 92 in the first of two exhibition games. Sterling ‘Scoot’ Henderson, who is projected to be a top choice in next year’s draught, excelled at point guard for Ignite, scoring 28 points and dishing out nine assists in a 122-115 victory.

7ft 4in "once-in-a-millennium" prodigy coming to nba
7ft 4in "once-in-a-millennium" prodigy coming to nba

But the NBA talent scouts were particularly focused on the 7-foot-4-inch adolescent playing for the Parisian team.

Not only is Victor Wembanyama the hottest prospect in the 2023 draught, but he may also be the most promising young player since LeBron James entered the game over a decade ago. In his first appearance in the United States, he scored 37 points – including seven three-pointers out of 11 attempts – and blocked five shots. Many feel that some clubs are already contemplating tanking to choose him with the No. 1 overall pick due to his exceptional skill.

With that performance, Wembanyama’s reputation, which has been progressively developing since 2020, was vindicated. The video that introduced him to the basketball world, which has been viewed more than 6 million times, was uploaded to YouTube at that time.

It depicts the 16-year-old participating in a two-on-two practice match in France. Three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was his direct opponent in the scrimmage. In slightly more than four minutes, the boy is observed grabbing rebounds over Gobert, dribbling like a guard, and executing a smooth jump shot. The hype train was on the move.

Once in a millennium
7ft 4in "once-in-a-millennium" prodigy coming to nba

“I saw him play for the first time in 2019 at the European under-16 championships,” says Jason Filippi, an NBA scout based in Europe who has worked for clubs in the NBA. “At the time, he was 15 years old, yet he captured everyone’s attention. Every one of my colleagues who attended this event ranked him as the top prospect.”

Born in 2004 in the Paris suburb of Le Chesney, Wembanyama comes from an athletic and tall family. His father, Felix, is a former 6ft 6 long jumper, while his mother, Elodie, is a former 6ft 3 basketball player and coach. Wembanyama is also a formidable shot-blocker and rim protector with an 8-foot wingspan, making him virtually unstoppable from beyond the arc.

In addition, despite his relative inexperience, the 18-year-old center appears to have a natural offensive and defensive grasp of the game.

“The ‘unicorn’ talk is somewhat accurate,” adds Filippi. “I am not claiming that he is the next Luka Doni. I do not believe he will be the best player in history. But he is unique. It exceeds his stature. It’s the total package: his stature, agility, and skill, as well as his instincts. That is not something you can teach.”

Wembanyama and American guard Keith Hornsby have met numerous times in France. During their first encounter, a 2021 exhibition game, he was impressed by the adolescent’s exceptional defensive abilities.

“He became aware of me and was playing quite a distance from me,” Hornsby explains. Therefore, I chose to take a chance. Then, I observed a lanky arm appear out of nowhere and block it. It was somewhat awkward. Then, naturally, my coach is angry with me, asking, “Why didn’t you assault him?” And I remarked, “I believed I had room to fire a shot.” In Victor’s space, however, it functions differently than a typical defender.

“It is evident that he has a wonderful touch and natural feel, qualities that I believe are difficult to teach. He has an excellent touch at shooting and finishing around the hoop. Moreover, on defense, he can block shots based only on his height and length, and his timing has also improved. On the floor, his presence is always felt. You can sense his presence, that he is lurking nearby. He’s dangerous on attack and defense.”

Another enthusiast is Nicola Alberni, the sports director of the French team SIG Strasbourg. He states, “When he’s on the floor, it’s a different game.” “You believe you can shoot because he’s not that close, but he’s so far away that you don’t realize how close he is. And you are unable to oppose any of his passes. He is akin to an additional point guard. When he shoots, he is always wide open, as no one can approach him.

“When I see him play basketball, I become a fan of the sport. He is a singular combination of everything. As long as he is healthy, I believe it to be illegal. He has the potential to be one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

In his first two seasons as a professional, Wembanyama averaged one steal, 3.8 blocks, and 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, demonstrating his superior defensive abilities. And he is similarly impressive on the offensive end, scoring 15.2 points per 36 minutes on average.

With his size and height, he seldom needs to leave the court to dunk, and he poses a constant danger with his lobs. A modest average of 1.5 assists per 36 minutes understates evaluators’ appreciation for his passing abilities. He also possesses an extensive arsenal of post moves.

Chris Horton first faced Wembanyama in France during the 2019-20 season, the teen’s rookie year as a professional. Horton recalls being astonished by Wembanyama’s shooting range and technique, which the teen has since improved.

“I’m guarding him, and he caught the ball where the coaches often stand, at the hash mark,” adds Horton. “He did not dribble before shooting, and it was insane. I do not dispute that. He fired with great assurance.”

He appears to be a well-rounded individual off the court. “Victor enjoys life just as much as he enjoys basketball,” his agent Bouna Ndiaye recently told Slam magazine. “He enjoys drawing, enjoys nice food, and is cultured. This is very essential to me because it is unhealthy to be solely focused on basketball.”

The 2017 Fiba Under-19 Basketball World Cup provided insight into how Wembanyama may perform against NBA opponents. He was chosen to the Tournament’s All-Tournament Team after averaging 14 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a tournament-record of 5.7 blocks per game while leading France to the championship game.

In the gold-medal game against a United States team that includes the No. 2 overall pick in 2022 Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jaden Ivey of the Detroit Pistons, the French teenagers were defeated 83-81.

But it was not due to Wembanyama’s lack of productivity. He scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked eight shots, while tournament MVP Holmgren scored 10 points and grabbed two rebounds.

Concerns remain about Wembanyama’s long-term durability due to his tiny body – he is classified as weighing between 210 and 220 pounds – and a concerning injury history that already includes absences for finger, foot, and shoulder ailments.

“He’s still really tiny,” Filippi says. “This constrains his play. As soon as he begins to grow into his own body, we will see the true Wembanyama. He has hardly touched the surface.”

For NBA scouts evaluating Wembanyama in Las Vegas against the G League Ignite, such doubts will have diminished in significance as he exhibited the full arsenal of skill and physique that makes him a generational possibility.

“He’s a once-in-a-millennium physique and skill set,” adds Hornsby. “You don’t see men like him very often.” His ceiling is limited only by his ability to create.

“I believe he is prepared,” concludes Horton. Once he enters the NBA environment, I believe he will flourish and become exactly what everyone believes he can be.

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