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Size doesn't matter to France center Wembanyama
UDINE (Italy) - So much attention on Victor Wembanyama focuses on his height and length, combined with his age and skillset. But the France center doesn't really think about any of that. He is just enjoying learning from the continent's best players at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019.
Wembanyama towers over everybody else in Udine at a listed 7ft 2in (2.18m). And that is no easy task, not even just within the French team, which includes seven players at least 6ft 7in (2.00m) with Naoll Balfournier at 7ft 1in (2.15m) and Maxime Raynaud at 6ft 11in (2.12m).
Wembanyama is anything but just long limbs as he has talent scouts drooling with his ability to handle and shoot the ball while also being quite agile for a man his size.
There it is again, that word - size.
There is no way Wembanyama can avoid it. It is just so uncommon to see players look like that in general, not to mention that he only celebrated his 15th birthday on January 4.
"I am not focusing on people's remarks and what people say about me. I have to focus on my game and nothing else to improve my progression," said Wembanyana, who averaged 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.3 blocks and 2.0 steals in helping France go undefeated through the Group Phase.
On Game Day 2, Wembanyama flirted with a triple-double against Serbia with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks. Then with France struggling to put away Greece on Game Day 3, he went off for 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks in the fourth quarter to finish with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists, 2 steals.
Put the skills and performances all together and Wembanyama has been all the rage in the youth basketball circles for almost the last two years.
"I think that people, who have never even seen me play, focus on me and write things about me. I'm very tall, that's enough for them to say I'm a prospect," Wembanyama said.
Très long, capable d'enchaîner les actions, d'aller vite en transition, de shooter, de passer... Le potentiel de Victor Wembanyama (2,18 m, né en 2004), sélectionné pour l'Euro U16 qui démarre vendredi, est infini.— BeBasket (@Be_BasketFr) August 6, 2019
👉 A découvrir ci-dessous ⬇️https://t.co/oTuKLQAKjp pic.twitter.com/4WshyRq8xt
When asked if he thinks he's a prospect, he answered: "It depends on what you mean as a prospect." And what does he think? "Everyone in some sort is a prospect."
Taking into account reports on Wembanyama over the past two years or so, he has gone through at least one if not numerous growth spurts. Wembanyama himself really can't answer questions about how much he's grown and when.
"I really don't know. I don't have the habit of checking my size that often," he states matter-of-factly.
Is he done growing? That too is unclear as he offers up a "I don't know."
One of the impressive things about his current skill level is that the increased height has not really impacted his shooting or dribbling - which is often the case as a young player will have to adapt his techniques as the body grows abnormally quick.
"I have almost the same shooting format and dribbling," he said.
Wembanyama says he has always had a ball around with a mother who played the game and a sister who also reached the France youth national team ranks.
"I HAVE DISCOVERED THE LEVEL OF OFFICIAL FIBA GAMES AND I DIDN'T THINK PLAYERS COULD HAVE THIS LEVEL AT THIS AGE."
"I have not always played basketball officially but I always had a ball at home. I knew how to dribble and shoot from when I was very young," he said as a possible reason for why the growing may not have affected him.
Another factor could be coordination that came from playing other sports including football and doing judo. "I was a good football player, a goalkeeper, but I had to focus on basketball. I have not done judo in a long time. I don't even remember much of it," he admitted.
The experience in Udine has really been an eye-opener for Wembanyama.
"I have discovered the level of official FIBA games and I didn't think players could have this level at this age, but I keep learning every day and learning about myself in this tournament," he said.
France have won two of the last five FIBA U16 European Championships - as the 2014 and 2017 crowns were added to the country's title in 2004. But Wembanyama would not even be the first person in his family to win a U16 European gold medal as his sister Eve Wembanyama helped France to the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2017 title.
And what if he could also reach the top step of the podium?
"It would be amazing because she has one and was congratulated by a lot of people. And some of the people said: when will the brother get one? It would make my family two times happier."
Eve Wembanyama at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2017
Finishing at least in the top five would also mean Wembanyama has a chance to play at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2020, which will be played in Bulgaria next summer.
"That would be even crazier than the European Championship already is," he said.
That would mean the rest of the world will get a chance to see that impressive mix of youth, skill set and size.
Oh, sorry, there it is again - size. Victor Wembanyama will just have to get used to it.