French star Wembanyama got his first taste of life in the NBA

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson have been consistently linked over the past two years, with nearly every prognosticator anointing them as the top two picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

The thing is, they don’t know each other.

This is about to change. Wembanyama — listed at 7-foot-2, some say he’s 7-foot-4 — and the Paris-based club Metropolitans 92 are in Las Vegas to face Henderson and the G League Ignite in a pair of exhibitions, the first on Tuesday and the second on Thursday.

“We’re playing against an NBA team, with NBA rules, on an NBA court,” Webanyama said Monday. “This will really be a first for me. I’m curious to know how it goes. I know it’s going to be fine, but I’m still curious.”

Victor vs. Scoot. Scoot vs. Victor. They don’t play 1-on-1, but they are the clear headliners and the reasons these first games of their kind were created.

Wembanyama is listed as a center, but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame. Henderson is a point guard who has been drawing attention for years.

“Of all the prospects I’ve heard about our class, I think that’s my favorite,” Wembanyama said. “I think he’s the most reliable I’ve seen. He is a really great player. If I had never been born, I think he would have deserved the top spot.”

Henderson — a five-star recruit out of Georgia who signed with the Ignite last year and played in 10 games — sees those two games as an opportunity, downplaying the 1-on-1 story.

“People are always trying to compare and contrast anyone. I don’t see it that way,” Henderson said. “I see it as two good players.”

The Ignite program exists to develop young prospects in preparation for the NBA draft by pairing them with veteran talent to help guide them. He has featured three potential top-10 picks — Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga last year, Dyson Daniels this year — in his first two seasons.

Henderson is a huge draw for Ignite this year. Ignite also has Sharef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille O’Neal. But a lot of what Ignite would normally do right now would be barely noticeable nationally. Therefore, the games against Wembanyama were concentrated.

The Los Angeles Lakers play in Las Vegas this week, a pair of preseason games against Phoenix and Minnesota. Wembanyama goes to them as a follower. will have a slightly different take on NBA games next season.

“He’s one of those types of players, honestly, that you say there’s never going to be another Shaq or there’s never going to be another,” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “That’s him. You’ll never see another one of these. The scouting report on him is tough. … It’s an honor to play him at 18, because at 24, it will be something different.”

Wembanyama has been a professional for three seasons already, spending last season with ASVEL in France – a team owned by San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker. He made the decision this year to join the Metropolitans in part coached by Vincent Collet, who also coaches the French National Team.

Collet welcomes the opportunity.

“I think he’s the best prospect we’ve ever had in our league,” Collet said. “He’s amazing, not only in his size, but also in his incredible ability. However, he still needs to learn the game. He is very young. … We will try to give him that experience. That’s the deal he and I have together. We want to give him the experience before he gets to the league. It is very important to prepare him for what will follow next year.”


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