NBA franchise San Antonio Spurs on Friday selected the French basketball prodigy Victor Wembanyama as their top young recruit for next season during a gala ceremony in New York City.
Wembanyama,19, has been described as a generational talent and one of the sport’s most brilliant prospects since LeBron James in 2003.
He will move to Texas from the French division one outfit Metropolitans 92 where he dominated last season’s charts in points scored, rebounds and blocked shots.
Choking back the tears as he left the stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn sporting his Spurs cap, he hugged members of his family.
Wembanyama, at two metres 21 centimetres, boasts the height of a centre as well as the shooting and ball-handling ability of a guard.
He will go to a team that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last season.
“We want Victor to be Victor,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich just after the draft had been announced.
“We are going to watch him and see what happens. You can’t make players be what you think they should be.”
“But to what degree, we’re not certain yet,”Added Popovich.
Wembanyama is likely to get his first taste of action for the Spurs during the summer league games for younger players.
Wembanyama’s compatriot and Metropolitans teammate, Bilal Coulibaly, was selected in seventh position for the Indiana Pacers and then the 18-year-old was traded to the Washington Wizards.
Two other French players also joined the NBA.
Rayan Rupert, 19, who played last season for the New Zealand Breakers, went in 43rd place to Portland and immediately afterwards 19-year-old Sidy Cissoko from the G League Ignite in the NBA G League joined Wembanyama in San Antonio.
“For French basketball, I’m so happy for it,”
“We’re getting more and more in this league. So yeah, just happy for that.”Coulibaly said.
It is the second straight year and third time overall that four or more French players have been taken in the same draft.
Coulibaly and Wembanyama also etched themselves into NBA draft legend by becoming the first two players from France to both be chosen in the top 20.
Elsewhere in the draft, the Charlotte Hornets took Brandon Miller, the number two draft pick, and Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite, was snapped up in third by the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I’m the most prepared player in the draft. That’s what I say,”
“The time there just taught me so much. On the court, as well, but a lot of things off the court.”Claimed 19-year-old Henderson who spent two years at G League Ignite.
Draft history was made with the number four and number five picks. Twins Amen and Ausar Thompson of Overtime Elite became the first brothers to be selected in the top 10 of the same draft.
Amen went to the Houston Rockets and Ausar was recruited by the Detroit Pistons.
“Means a lot to my family,”
“We were going to be happy whoever went first. For us to go back-to-back, be the first twins to go back-to-back in the top five means a lot.”Amen Thompson said.