Basketball America has been warned, a “Wembamania” is indeed looming. The phenomenon Victor Wembanyama is more than ever favorite to be the N.1 of the next draft: still ultra-dominant, he guided the Metropolitans to success (112-106), Thursday, in a friendly against the G-League Ignite, with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks to his credit, after 37 points on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Frenchman, whom only observers had been following for a few years, already announcing the phenomenon to come, confirmed all the good people thought of him for his first steps in the United States, which he dreams of conquering. All in front of some 200 representatives, general managers, recruiters, from the thirty NBA franchises, who came to scrutinize him.
“A wonderful experience”
An unprecedented promotional operation for a “prospect” (hope), moreover non-American, which added enormous pressure on his young shoulders, given the expectations for him. But in two matches, like so many demonstrations of force, carried by an insolent talent and extraordinary physical aptitudes, he got everyone to agree, while showing himself to be extremely comfortable and mature in the face of the craze. media.
“This experience was unique, magnificent. I don’t know how it could have been better,” Wembanyama commented in a post-match press conference, which was his second in less than 48 hours. And was a revenge against the Ignite, a team partly composed of young talents likely like him to be selected by a franchise in 2023 and who had won (122-115) in the first round.
Beware of “tanking”, warns the boss of the NBA
This time, Wembanyama not only shone brighter individually, but he led his team to victory. After his 37 points (7/11 behind the arc) and 5 successful blocks on Tuesday, he is doing almost as well offensively, but showing himself to be even more active on both sides of the field, adding 4 assists to his bag. He also made the show by slamming a dunk after alley-oop (pass in the air) initiated by Hugo Besson.
Above all, he was decisive in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points which largely contributed to the comeback of the Metropolitans, who were trailing by twelve units at the start of this last act. His interception, the only one of the game, in the last second, and two free throws scored definitively sealed the victory for his team.
All under the eyes of his compatriot Rudy Gobert, who came as a neighbor from Las Vegas which is twenty kilometers away, where the pivot of the Blues is doing a preseason internship with his new club, the Minnesota Timberwolves. “It’s really exciting, we are lucky to have such talent, we have never seen a player like Victor,” said Gobert at the microphone of ESPN, which broadcast the match live.
NBA boss Adam Silver has warned franchises that “tanking,” the practice of dropping down the standings to have a better chance of getting the first draft pick in the lottery, won’t happen. tolerated: “I know that many teams are salivating in advance, but everyone will have to fight on a regular basis. »
What is clear is that the French “generational talent”, if it does not get hurt, will be coveted as ever. A franchise boss told ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski on condition of anonymity that drafting “Wemba” could add $500 million to the value of the lucky winner.
“Nothing done yet”
“I’ve known him since he was 13, we knew he was going to be unique. He is very mature, he knows where he wants to go. I don’t think there is any possible comparison, “added the man, who intends to form a formidable indoor duo with him in the France team, during the next international events, namely the Worlds-2023 and the Games. 2024 Olympics in Paris.
In the meantime, Wembanyama’s main objective is in the United States where he already arouses the admiration of NBA stars, in particular LeBron James (Lakers) who called him an “alien” on Wednesday evening.
“It’s an honor to have great players talk about me like this, but it doesn’t change anything. I thought it was cool, but I have to stay focused on my goals. I haven’t accomplished anything yet, I haven’t played an NBA game, I haven’t been drafted, ”he reacted, unperturbed after the game.
June 22, 2023 is still a long way off, more than eight months. But for the time being his trajectory is perfect: Wembanyama has never been so well placed and in sight to become the first Frenchman in history to be selected first.