As a French man, Nicolas Batum belongs to a handful of people around who already foresaw Victor Wembanyama as an out of this world prospect.
He told Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes his first encounter with Wembanyama and how he noted its jaw-breaking traits alongside future hall of famer Tony Parker.
“The first time I remember seeing him in late June of 2018, he was 14 years old. I heard about him a little bit before that, but had never seen him live. I had a practice with the French national team in Paris and he was practicing after us. I saw him walking in and I’m like, ‘This is the big kid I heard about a couple weeks ago?’ And one of the coaches said, ‘Yeah. He’s the new kid. He’s supposed to be great and he’s really tall.’ I said, ‘No, he’s not tall; he’s different.’ I saw him joking around with his friends and just being young. I saw him pick up the basketball and he started dribbling. I was shocked how he could handle the ball at that size. Then our coaches said it’s time for us to get on the bus and I’m like, ‘Go. Go. I’m staying. I’m going to check this kid out. Give me 15 minutes.’
“After watching him, I talked to Tony Parker because we’re part owners of [French basketball team] ASVEL Basket. I said to Tony, ‘Yo, I got the next one. I just saw the next one. I like everybody else, but this kid is insane. He’s gonna be crazy good.’ I’ve been following the kid since he was 14 years old, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet his family a couple of times. He’s special.”
When asked by Haynes what he intends to express about Wembanyama being “the next one,” the Los Angeles Clippers forward said that the teenage Wunderkind is set to conquer the basketball landscape in general.
“I’m not saying he’s next for French basketball; he’s next for basketball. As for French basketball, you had me, [Evan] Fournier, [Rudy] Gobert. But when I say next, I’m talking about the world of basketball. The buzz for him is similar to when Luka [Doncic] came in four years ago. It’s kind of the same hype.”
Batum’s claim truly makes sense given the fact that Wembanyama recently stormed the American soil with that once in a generation skills, abilities and physical entity. Standing at seven-foot-four, he displayed a unique combination of skills, shooting and handling capabilities.
In the first exhibition game of his Metropolitans 92 against G League Ignite, Wembanyama didn’t fail to impress upon registering 37 points on 7-of-11 shooting from three, alongside four rebounds and five blocks. He also repeated an impressive performance the following match by compiling 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds – wowing the crowd with that immense potential and futuristic glimpses of an NBA player.
Eight months away before the 2023 Draft opens its doors, Wembanyama is already receiving superstar-like treatment from the media, fans and players. At the end of the day, we can only hope that the stars will align for him to remain healthy and reach his full capabilities with that god-given talent.