Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit BasketNews/Begum Unal

The whispers about the gigantic, swift-footed French prospect who has a great handle on the ball, a smooth jumper, and controls the paint have been heard for years now.

Victor Wembanyama

Victor  Wembanyama
Victor  Wembanyama
MIN: 12.42
PTS: 4.17 (30.43%)
REB: 2.67
As: 0.17
ST: 0.17
BL: 1.33
TO: 0.67
GM: 6

This season, more people are getting a chance to see LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne's rising star Victor Wembanyama than ever before.

Wembanyama, who turned 18 on January 4, has only taken part in six Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games this season and showed hints of the great player he will surely become in the future.

He is a 2.20-meter all-around player who can seemingly do it all, as he displayed earlier this season against Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, in one of the most spectacular plays in the EuroLeague so far this season.

Projected No.1 pick in 2023 is a member of a distinguished sports family. His father, Felix, is a former high jumper, and his mother played basketball. His brother Oscar plays handball and his older sister, Eve, plays basketball professionally and won a gold medal with France at the 2017 U16 European Championship.

"I was there. It was in France, actually. So yeah, my whole family was there. It was a great happiness moment. It was like the first big title of our family, the first of many," Victor said.

Wembanyama played other sports as a boy. He was a goalkeeper in football and also tried judo before deciding to focus on basketball. The only sport his parents insisted he work at was track.

"You know, there's a correct way of running. And he taught me things like that," Victor said of his father. "And I was actually part of a track and field team, like for a year around 10 or 11."

Wembanyama's mother, Elodie de Fautereau, is a youth basketball coach, but she did not interfere with Victor's development.

"She teaches basketball to really young players, like, from 4 to 10 or something like that. But for performance, I never trained with her," Wembanyama said.

"It's not that she doesn't want to get involved in my performance, but she knows her role. And she knows as a parent that sometimes it's better to fade off or not to get too much involved in your children's path."

Wembanyama started to play basketball at the age of 7 at Entente Le Chesnay Versailles. Three years later, he was noticed by Michael Alard, the sports coordinator of JSF Nanterre, who brought him to the team's youth system.

By 2018, he helped Nanterre's U18 team become the French League runner-up despite being three years younger than most of the players. The time had come to slowly but steadily promote him to the first team.

Wembanyama made his 7DAYS EuroCup debut during the 2019-20 campaign, though he only played a total of 3 minutes in two games.

He was chosen as the French League's best young player last season after averaging 6.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in less than 17 minutes per night. Over his last seven games, Wembanyama boosted those numbers to 9.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks.

Indeed, blocking shots is one of Victor's strengths. At the 2020 U19 World Cup, Wembanyama averaged 5.7 blocks and had 8 of those in the championship game against the USA along with 22 points and 9 rebounds.

Wembanyama explained that there are no secrets to blocking shots other than being in the right place at the right time.

"Timing and the most important is instinct. You have to know when you actually can or can't block shots. But, I think, my ability to block shots comes from the fact that I was really, really tall from a young age. Like, I never had a growth spurt, but I was already way, way taller than everyone from my youngest age, like preschool," he said.

"So, throughout my whole life, I was able to practice blocking shots as I was taller. And it has just become a habit."

There is more to Wembanyama and his game than his outstanding physical skills. He always seems to be having fun on a basketball court, smiling and enjoying every moment.

"No matter the level, would it be the NBA or the Under 13 regional championship. Basketball will always be basketball and it's a game," Wembanyama said.

"When I come on the court, it's straight to have fun and do what I can do. So, if you watch the tape, I come on the court even in my first pro game just to have fun. I'm taking shots, like deep threes. I have no pressure, no fear. It's just basketball, so I'm trying to have fun every time."

Like every major prospect, Wembanyama knows that there are a lot of eyes on him. He believes that being in the EuroLeague at this point in his career is the perfect environment to keep growing.

His down-to-earth approach is to keep working and improving as a player without thinking about what’s next.

"I think [the EuroLeague] is really the best place for me to be today. I know some people have doubts about my ability to play in the EuroLeague.

But I know that, when I was 13 years old, some people had doubts about my ability to play under 15. And when I was 15, some persons were doubting my capability to play pro. And now, it's the logical continuation. You know, people have doubts, but I'm going to prove them wrong, as I do."

The more people who get to see this one-of-a-kind player in action, the fewer doubters there will be.

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Free throws this season

Points made: 10,6
Accuracy: 74,8%
Place in standings: 15
Record max: 18
Record min: 4
Most made FTs: Elie Okobo