French prodigy Wembanyama set to be first pick in NBA draft

The 19-year-old French basketball prodigy is expected to be selected first overall by the San Antonio Spurs in Thursday night’s NBA draft.


Victor Wembanyama pushed back on the soaring hype surrounding him on Wednesday as he prepares to be the most sought-after No. 1 pick in the NBA draft since LeBron James.

The 19-year-old French prodigy is the target of the San Antonio Spurs at Thursday’s NBA draft in New York and is widely considered a once-in-a-lifetime talent who can change teams.

The 7-foot-4 (2.24m) Winbanyama, who arrived in the United States on Monday, was greeted by autographers and San Antonio fans amid pre-draft excitement.

During a pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, Winbanyama told reporters he wasn’t worried about the attention that would accompany him into the NBA.

“I’m not going to let all these things go to my head because I have such high expectations of myself that I’m immune to all these things,” Wembanyama told reporters. “I really don’t care.”

When the Spurs won the No. 1 pick in the NBA lottery last month, celebrations erupted in San Antonio, dubbed the “Wembanyama Sweepstakes.”

For Wembanyama, being named No. 1 on Thursday will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

“Ever since I knew about the draft and how it works, I’ve wanted to be No. 1,” Winbanyama said.

“Tomorrow something will happen that I’ve been thinking about for years.

“I definitely won’t be able to sleep tonight. I just feel really lucky.”

Winbanyama is also looking forward to working with the San Antonio Spurs, following in the footsteps of French four-time NBA champion Tony Parker under the tutelage of esteemed coach Gregg Popovich.

“To me, San Antonio is synonymous with winning,” Winbanyama said.

“On lottery night, when the Spurs got the No. 1 pick, I just thought, I’m lucky they got this pick because of their culture and experience creating and developing great players.

“So I really can’t wait.”

“Game Changer”

NBA officials said Winbanyama has the potential to be a “game changer” for the league, noting that his arrival has already fueled a spike in the league’s streaming platforms and social media channels.

Winbanyama said Wednesday that he is being challenged to perform on and off the field.

“I’m trying to be the best,” he said. “Being the best is not just on the court. NBA basketball players work in all aspects.

“I also want to do my best with the media, press conferences and all those things. I don’t like doing things halfway.”

Winbanyama, meanwhile, confirmed he plans to make his first appearance in a Spurs uniform during the NBA Summer League preseason.

“I’m going to play in summer league,” Winbanyama said.

It is unclear whether Wembanyama will play in the July 3 summer league in Sacramento, or the July 7-17 games in Las Vegas.

Umbanyama also said he wanted to represent France at the World Cup in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10.

“There’s a period between summer league and the World Cup,” Winbanyama said. “Playing in the World Cup is still my plan. I’m waiting for an agreement with my team.”

Umbanyama said he has continued to train since the French basketball season ended last week, when his Mets 92 series lost to Monaco 3-0.

“Since the end of last season, about a week ago, I’ve been in shape,” Winbanyama said.

“I lifted weights almost every day except for the day I was traveling. I lifted weights with my trainer this morning. I wasn’t too tired.

“In fact, I’m pretty much in the best shape of the season.”


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