Top prospect Wembanyama showcases repertoire in high-profile showcase

The 7-foot French phenom from the Metropolitans 92 blocked shots at the rim and perimeter, grabbed rebounds, ran the floor, set screens, scored on a nice spin move, showed off his dribbling ability, dove for a loose ball and he even played point guard on one possession.

Oh, and all this in the first two minutes.

Talk about setting the tone. The 200 NBA scouts and executives who came to see a show didn’t have to pay for their tickets Tuesday night, but if they had, they wouldn’t have been shortchanged at any price. Wembanyama showed all the skills that make him considered the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft.

His final numbers, in his first game under NBA rules and in 12-minute quarters: 37 points, 11-for-20 shooting, seven threes, five blocks, four rebounds.

“He was amazing, at times,” Metropolitans 92 coach Vincent Collet said.

The final score, as if it mattered: G League Ignite 122, Metropolitans 92 115, with Scoot Henderson — the consensus No. 2, as of now anyway — finishing with 28 points and nine assists for the Ignite.

The teams will play again on Thursday afternoon. After that, the next time Wembanyama plays a game of any significance on American soil will likely be in the Summer League next July.

“It was a great experience, a great experience,” Wembanyama said. “I can’t wait to do it again. I know we’re going to do it again in two days and then for the rest of my life.”

Much of the Wembanyama repertoire was on full display, and it was as good as advertised. He made three pointers. Step back jumpers. He did what looked slightly reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s 1992 NBA Finals shrug after one of those shots. He played through what appeared to be a bit of a sprained ankle, hitting a fadeaway 3 while doing so. He even called fouls like a seasoned NBA veteran and may have had a legitimate case on a few occasions.

There are many ways to make the 18 year old better. But one thing is clear: He’s ready for the NBA, ready for the scrutiny that will follow in the draft, the scrutiny that will come if he is indeed the No. 1 pick.

“He’s a really talented player,” Ignite coach Jason Hart said.

Even the things that didn’t appear next to Wembanyama’s name in the box score were sometimes impressive. Case in point: a play midway through the second quarter when he made a pick near midcourt, rolled, caught a pass a few inches inside the 3-point line, took a dribble and took off—because by then, he was already in in the middle of the lane. He tried to go up over multiple Ignite players, took a shot, got fouled, shrugged off the contact and drained the rebound.

It didn’t count, but it still had some people sitting in the yard and reacting in disbelief.

There are always shows in Vegas, but Cirque du Soleil wasn’t the French brand that caught the attention of the basketball world on Tuesday night.

San Antonio executive RC Buford and Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti chat before the game. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Trevor Ariza, in town with the Phoenix Suns to play the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, showed up to watch with seats near the Metropolitans’ bench. DeMarcus Cousins ​​took a spot near the Ignite bench. Chelsea Gray and A’ja Wilson of the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces — coming off a FIBA ​​World Cup gold medal they also won a few days ago — watched from one of the baselines. The WNBA trophy even made an appearance.

“Everybody’s going to be watching him,” said Metropolitans 92 guard Tremont Waters, who has played for three NBA clubs.

And it wasn’t just The Victor Show. Henderson — another super-talented 18-year-old — believes he should be the No. 1 pick and has had more than his share of moments. He turned Wembanyama’s incredible 8-foot wingspan a few times for layups, put him in the air to assist his Ignite teammates a few times, stepped back 3 over him as well.

“Scoot is really good,” Hart said.

He also attempted what would have been a dunk with 3:31 left. Wembanyama blew it with ease. Henderson also attempted a 3 with 1:31 left. Wembanyama sent it into the seats.

But Henderson — who was 11 for 21 from the field, three of those 10 misses were blocks by Wembanyama — held up more than his end of the bargain in this made-for-TV matchup.

“This game meant a lot to Scoot,” said Ignite forward Shareef O’Neal, the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. “This is my No. 1 choice.”

Henderson said: “I feel like I made an impact on the game.”

Henderson showed some fire. He took a long look at the Metropolitans bench as time expired in the second quarter and the Ignite were beginning to build their lead. Wembanyama also had a bit of an edge with him. he made a 3-pointer near the Ignite bench early in the second half, then turned and glanced at those sitting there, then converted a four-point play on his next possession.

Nicolas Batum, who played for Collet in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China, tweeted during the second half: “One thing for sure the first 2 picks are LOCKED in for the next NBA draft.”

A lot can change between now and June. But Batum’s prediction seems pretty safe.

A Victor vs. Scoot show was what the NBA wanted. Handed over.

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