For Victor Wembanyama “at 15% of his abilities”, a very accomplished first NBA season

End clap for the NBA regular season, the first for Frenchman Victor Wembanyama in the North American basketball league. Rested by his San Antonio Spurs franchise for 82e and last match of this 2023-2024 financial year, the native of Chesnay (Yvelines) therefore concluded his debut across the Atlantic with a prestigious success, Friday, against the Denver Nuggets (121-120). When it comes time to take stock, the man who will be one of the faces of the Blues at the Paris Olympic Games believes that he is “currently at 15% of its capacity”.

A very accomplished first season in the NBA

Expectations for Victor Wembanyama were high for this first season. Selected No. 1 in the draft – a sort of scholarship for players wishing to join the NBA in June 2023 – the Frenchman fulfilled them. Both by the visual impression left after each of his outings, as well as by his statistical lines – 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.6 blocks and 1.2 interceptions, all in 71 games . Unheard of since 1976. Favorite for the title of rookie (“neophyte”) of the year, he is also in the discussions for best defender, with his compatriot Rudy Gobert, Minnesota player.

Read also | Rudy Gobert: “Getting beaten a year before the Olympics showed us what we need to improve, to come back even stronger” in Paris

“Before 95% of matches, I try to realize how lucky I am to be on the floortold “Wemby”, Sunday, to a small panel of French journalists, including The worldwho saw him after the final meeting of the Spurs season – from which he was exempt. Sometimes it’s very difficult because the match is about to start and I’m extremely tired. I tell myself that I played one yesterday, another three days ago and I will play another tomorrow. But, each time, I try to remember how lucky I am to be on the field. »

Doubts about his ability to cope with the frenetic pace of the NBA quickly faded, leaving room for another question. How far can he go? “I would say that I am currently at 15% of my abilities and the maximum level that I hope to reach”, he says. Very dissuasive defensively, crowned with the status of best blocker in the league, Victor Wembanyama refined his offensive panel as he took the pulse of the NBA and its special style of play. “He has progressed more in six months than some people in five years, or even during their entire career”explains Brian Windhorst, journalist for the American sports channel ESPN.

After several experiments by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, the Frenchman changed register when he moved closer to the circle and his teammates understood how to use him. “For me, it’s the best rookie Of the historyestimates Jovan Buha, journalist who follows the Los Angeles Lakers for The Athletic. When he plays, it feels like a video game, but it’s reality. »

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