Victor Wembanyama on the Draft: “There must be no one chosen in front of me”

Victor Wembanyama is a generational talent, it’s no longer a secret. Announced as the future first pick of the 2023 NBA draft, the Frenchman is preparing for the home stretch before his departure across the Atlantic. The pivot was present at the Media Day of the National Basketball League to answer questions about the Draft and his season with Vincent Collet at the Metropolitans.

We’ve been talking for several years now about the 2023 NBA draft and your potential first place. How do you approach the last season before this moment?

Victor Wembanyama: With appetite. I can’t wait, but I also want to enjoy this last year in France. I know that in the next fifteen years, I will no longer live here. I really have a good feeling about the coming year. Me, I feel like I have a slightly different status now, when you know that I’m going to leave next year. But I stay focused and aim to improve every year. Today, I just want to continue in this momentum.

The first place undoubtedly has marketing, financial, etc. stakes. But from a sporting point of view, is this place really decisive for you or is it the honesty that counts?

Victor Wembanyama: Sportingly, the most interesting thing is always to find an organization that will take care of the project and the player. So it’s better to be second, third or 20th in the draft if you have a better career afterwards. But, I don’t know if it’s pride, I have a part that says to itself that there should be no one in front of me.

A game is scheduled for October against Scoot Henderson, announced with you as one of the favorites for the first draft pick next year. Is it something that you expect and that motivates you?

Victor Wembanyama: We have two games against the G League Ignite, October 4 and 6. It is of course something that is exciting. It’s a bit like a small final, because it’s something that has never been done and even less for French basketball. Simply unheard of. It’s always been my essence to innovate and create things that have never been seen. I approach this as the main actor of the thing. I want to do great things, especially in this event.

Do you aim to develop yourself physically before going to the NBA?

Victor Wembanyama: What matters to me this season is above all to consolidate a place as a possible first choice in the Draft. That’s my goal, rather than trying to put on 15kg and take risks. I want to strengthen myself, but above all to move towards a favorable situation for the NBA.

You weren’t spared from injuries last season, which certainly worries some clubs. How could you reassure them? Does this worry you?

Victor Wembanyama: No, that doesn’t worry me. I didn’t have any serious injuries, which is reassuring. We know that in the NBA the support is the best, light years from here. So there is no reason to worry. We know very well how to take care of the players, I don’t worry.

How was your rehabilitation this summer?

Victor Wembanyama: My return from injury went well. I spent some time in the United States where I was really surrounded by the best to do my rehabilitation and my return. As always, I feel like I came back better. This translates into my last two performances. Even if it was only friendlies, it was against big European cup teams, often. I would say that these are my best performances in professional. Then, I feel really comfortable in this new collective, in this new team, so I feel that it will go well now. Our coach Vincent Collet is coming back from elsewhere, it’s going to level up again.

How, at your age, do you manage media pressure and expectations about you and your potential career?

Victor Wembanyama: I think the way I deal with it has nothing to do with my age. But it has everything to do with my personality and my goals. I don’t need to work on this. I did media training a long time ago, but I think it’s ok, I seem to be doing quite normally. Even against all expectations, there is one fact that I always keep in mind. It’s that everything I do is for myself. The expectations of each other have nothing to do with the way I manage my career. Me, it brings me no stress. I’m really into my thing. Everything I do, everything I achieve, everything I undertake depends on me, on my thinking and on my work. And I have very much in mind what I will accomplish in the future. In the past, I had in mind what I am accomplishing today.

How did you experience the last season? Did you achieve the goals you set for yourself?

Victor Wembanyama: This year was long. There were a lot of unexpected things. I learned a lot of things, especially because it was the first time I was in a completely new environment. It really was a year in which I learned a lot about myself and my goals. It’s a season that has been divided into several parts for me, with ups and downs, especially for my team. We had a lot of injuries, a lot of absent players… But in the end, the results are very positive. We are champions of France. For me, it’s a first title that is still important. It’s my personal point of view, but I think my track record is nice. Best youngster and 10 points on average, that’s fine, I think.

Victor Wembanyama, historic measures during his future move to the Draft Combine?

What do you expect from your relationship with Vincent Collet? I imagine that was important in your choice.

Victor Wembanyama: It was very important, yes. Vincent Collet is someone I had the opportunity to meet on several occasions, especially when I spent some time with the France division. I met him several times at INSEP and we already discussed several years before I signed with Levallois. He is surely the greatest French coach. So he’s someone I trust 100% on the basketball level, tactical level. He is also someone ambitious, who respects my project and with whom I feel like spending a serene year full of ambitions before the draft.

Hugo Besson said he came to Boulogne Levallois to play one game a week and develop individually. Is this also your project?

Victor Wembanyama: Sure. One game a week is really the ideal format. I don’t need to take risks to play more than that. Frankly, for development, there is no better. I want to go back to doing what I used to do and had less time to do. That is to say individual work with different coaches and bodybuilding with Guillaume Alquier, who has also just signed for Boulogne-Levallois.

You had two good performances last week, with two matches at 34 points. Everything revolves around you. Is this the kind of responsibility you were looking for at the Metropolitans, to be able to show what you can do and have a collective centered on you?

Victor Wembanyama: It is in particular what I came to seek, what I had the certainty to have here. It’s something we don’t really know, but it’s hard to empower young people in French basketball. Unlike in the United States, we are often outclassed here. Personally, I almost never played in my age group. So being empowered is a bit more complicated. It’s already my third year as a pro, so it’s time to take responsibility. In the end, in my life, I have rarely had the opportunity to have a collective more or less turned towards me. When I was in U15, I played in U18. When I was in U16, I played in Espoirs. So it was always a challenge against older players and it was a challenge to integrate into a team, as I experienced in Nanterre. I think that, unlike the United States, in France, we lack this empowerment of young people. They are two different schools.

A lot of people were hoping to see you at the European Championship. How did you follow the competition? Did you want to go on the pitch when you saw the Blues play?

Victor Wembanyama: I assiduously followed the results of the France team. And, yes, it was hard to watch at times, because this team really pissed us off. We survived several times thanks to miracles and it was very emotional. Of course, it’s frustrating sometimes, because I tell myself that I might have been able to bring my stone to the building. But it’s a team in which I trust and I know that in the future, there will be great performances and great medals with this team.

Victor Wembanyama on the Draft: “There must be no one chosen in front of me”