16 - 22
December 2016
45 Sekou Doumbouya (FRA)
to read

Doumbouya's delayed international debut has been worth the wait

SAMSUN (FIBA U18 European Championship 2016) - International basketball fans spent the summer of 2016 wondering why Sekou Doumbouya didn't play for France at the FIBA U17 World Championship or the FIBA U16 European Championship. His arrival on the continental landscape has been delayed but worth the wait as the young prodigy is showing at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016.

Doumbouya is making the tournament in Samsun his official coming-out party as the 2.02m forward is second in the tournament in scoring at 20.0 points a game including a 31-point outburst against Serbia. He leads the tournament in field goal percentage at 61.3%. He is France's top rebounder at 6.3 boards per game to go with 1.3 blocks and 1 steal.

Oh, we forgot to mention that Doumbouya is still 15-years-old and will turn 16 the day after the tournament ends.

Doumbouya's outstanding international debut has scouts drooling as he knives into the lane past NBA prospects and dunks over top European stars; leaves defenders dumbfounded on a spin move for an easy layup; and has opponents wondering where he came from as he hawks in for a big weakside block.

For Doumbouya, it's just a game.

"Right now, it is just for pleasure," Doumbouya says through an assistant coach acting as interpreter. "I hope to reach as high as possible, but right now it's for pleasure."

A scary note for future opponents, Doumbouya is still a baby in the game too, having only started the game when he was 12-years-old. He was spotted by a coach named Benoit Burguet during a pick-up game in Fleury-les-Aubrais, and that was it.

Doumbouya had never been interested in basketball or watched before then so it was a totally new game for him. Soccer had been his thing. And he was a striker, of course.

"I used to score a lot of goals," he says with a smile.

It must have been liberating for Doumbouya to not have to keep a ball between his feet as he blew by a defender to score a goal. Now it was just one or two dribbles before he was ready to finish above the rim in basketball.

If that kind of gives you visions of LeBron James, you are not really that far off. French sports daily L'Equipe quoted Le Mans sports director Vincent Loriot's first encounter with Doumbouya as follows: "It was LeBron athletically, a monster with a child's face."

Doumbouya also brings up the NBA superstar when asked about who he plays like: "LeBron. I want to be like LeBron James… I want to be an NBA elite player."

All that hype was being built as he was also averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 11 minutes per game for French second division Pro B side Poitiers.

But his international debut has taken much longer than anybody had hoped. Doumbouya was born in Conakry, Guinea. He arrived in France as a child with his mother and four siblings. They lived in Fleury-les-Aubrais near Orleans. The French had been trying for months to have Doumbouya's paperwork processed.

"Just bureaucracy," said the French team in Samsun about why it took so long to get Doumbouya's passport.

"I want to be like LeBron James … I want to be an NBA elite player.” - Doumbouya

The FIBA U17 World Championship in June and July came and went as did the FIBA U16 European Championship from 12-20 August.

"It's just how life goes. It was a little bit frustrating but I just dealt with it," Doumbouya said calmly.

The passport finally came in the first days of November. And it ended up being a close call. Had it not come until after Doumbouya's 16th birthday on December 23, 2016, he would be considered a naturalised player according to FIBA rules.

France, however, have another superstar in the making among their ranks and international basketball fans finally are getting a chance to see Doumbouya do his thing.