The NBA preseason is well underway, with about a week and a half of exhibitions left to go until the regular season returns. The newly drafted stars of 2022 will be getting acclimated to the league, but it’s next year’s draft that people will be keeping their eyes on.
Up steps seven-foot-four French power forward, Victor Wembaymana. Upon first glance, you’d be forgiven for seeing this giant as another paint-dominating big-man, perhaps lacking the agility of smaller players in the same position, or not being dynamic enough to have a second route of scoring.
Wembanyama however, has stolen the show with some of the most impressive work from an 18-year-old in a long time. As an international star, it’s slightly harder for him to make it into the NBA, however two immense performances for his current team, Paris-based Metropolitans 92, playing against the NBA G League’s Ignite side have firmly put him into contention for a very promising spot in the 2023 Draft.
His athletic prominence runs in the family, with his mother playing basketball professionally and his father representing DR Congo as a long jumper. His older sister, Eve, also plays basketball for France, winning a gold medal at under-16s level.
The two exhibitions he played against the G League Ignite side saw him shoot to instant stardom, and he got himself an impressive double-double in the second game, consisting of 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 assists.
One of the first current stars to be blown away by the Frenchman was Lebron James, who described him as a ‘generational talent.’
‘Everybody goes on about this unicorn thing, everyone’s been a unicorn over the last few years – but he’s more like an alien!’ said James after the Lakers lost 119-115 to the Suns during a pre-season warmup clash.
‘I’ve never seen, no-one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor.’
Wembayama’s fellow Frenchman and Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, was watching his countryman’s game from the sidelines, and went on to catch up with reporters after the game.
“I feel good, I feel small,” Gobert laughed when stood next to Wembanyama.
“What strikes me the most about him is his maturity. Obviously, he’s a very unique talent and he has a very unique physique. But his maturity and his confidence, he’s very unique.”
By the end of the night, more and more NBA players gave their verdict. Nets’ power forward Kevin Durant said “That type of talent and skill, it just puts a smile on your face,” and Steph Curry, two-time NBA MVP and four-time champion with the Golden State Warriors described him as the “[NBA] 2K create-a-player… Cheat-code type vibes.”
The sky might not be the limit for this future superstar. Many expect the 18-year-old to become the number one prospect going into next season’s draft. The praise will continue to roll in and many might take a bit of notice of the French side’s campaign this year as he looks to be the next big talent emerging from Europe in the footsteps of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic.