With him everything is disproportionately big: size, talent and expectations.
At only 16 years old, and from the height of his 2.19 m - "it depends on the height" jokes the person concerned - Victor Wembanyama, who plays inside, is considered the great hope of French basketball.
An atypical profile - unique - that many specialists send in first position of the NBA Draft in 2023. And in the meantime, this young man in a hurry - he is passing his baccalaureate this year with a year in advance and has always been outclassed - will be integrated into the pro group from Nanterre.
As the Jeep Elite season kicks off this Wednesday, it delivers for the first time.
A calm and rare word.
With your height, was it obvious to play basketball?
Basketball has always been present in my life.
My mother was a basketball player and became an educator coach for children in clubs.
I was always with her, I participated from the age of 4 or 5 in her sessions.
I grew up with a basketball in my hands.
Even though I later played judo or soccer, basketball has always been my favorite sport.
It's a pleasure, a passion.
When did you realize that this pleasure could become something more serious?
It's always a pleasure.
But during the first year in U 13, my coach, Karim Boubekri, focused training on individual development and performance.
I liked it and gave me a taste of the high level.
I understood that it could be more than a hobby.
Have you always been taller than other children your age?
I haven't had a growth spurt.
Since kindergarten I am always the tallest, much taller.
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You do not go unnoticed, how do you live with the eyes of others?
I've gotten used to being seen as the “big one” forever.
I didn't really pay attention to other people's stares until I was 13 or 14.
I felt a change at that moment, when I passed 2.10m.
At first it was painful.
There are always disrespectful people who ask me about my size.
There are also those who talk about me and who imagine that I cannot hear them.
There are reflections.
But with the little maturity that comes with age, I manage to play down and even have fun.
- LNB (@LNBofficiel) August 27, 2020
In basketball, on the other hand, this size becomes a strength ...
Yes it is different even if it is not the reason why I play basketball.
Being tall is seen as an advantage.
But even in basketball, we put labels.
It is believed that a grown-up can only have a stereotypical game, that he is only his size and does not know how to do anything else.
For example, everyone thinks I play the pivot position… I don't.
I have character (he smiles).
I hate being like other people and I like to stand out.
I will never agree to fit into a mold.
The fact that I don't have a conventional game makes me happy.
All my coaches have understood this.
None of them restrained me, forbade me to dribble or return the ball.
You have just signed the double AS license which allows you to play with Nanterre, in Espoirs and in Jeep Élite, and with the young people of Pole France in N 1…
It is ideal for bridging the gap between the young categories and the pro level.
For now the goal is to be dominant with the hopes.
I must progress step by step.
I will see and recalibrate my goals after a few games.
I intend to use this season as a launching pad for next season where my goal will be to perform like a pro.
You also take the Bac this year
I will do everything to get it.
It's true that sometimes it's hard to find the time and energy to do everything, especially homework.
It's quite an organization.
But my schedule is adapted and the fact that the school is next to the Palais des sports makes things easier.
Fortunately, because I have to find the time to eat at least 5 times a day.
But I know why I am doing all this, I know I will be rewarded.
That is to say ?
I have nutritional goals per meal and according to my schedule for the day.
I currently weigh 95 kg, the goal is to gain muscle gradually.
With Vincent (Dziagwa, the club's physical trainer) we use the profiles of players I look like to get an idea of the weight I could do like Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas, NBA), who measures 2.21 m for 111 kg , and Rudy Gobert, who measures 2.16 m for 109 kg.
Welcome to Victor Wembanyama (2.19 m, 16 years old) from the club @ Nanterre92, 🥈at Euro U16 🏀in 2019 & elected in the best five of the competition, who will be able to continue his progress by also playing in National 1 with the Pôle France #BasketBall #INSEP for the 2020/2021 season pic.twitter.com/Tm3M8sipNA
- INSEP (@INSEP_PARIS) September 10, 2020
Are these models for you?
I also really like players like Kevin Durant (New York) or Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) who prove that size does not prevent you from knowing how to play basketball.
They don't have a stereotypical game.
Your future also seems to be taking shape in the NBA where projections announce you n ° 1 of the Draft in 2023 ...
My goal is to go to the NBA, to go as high as possible.
It's my mentality, I don't want to be an extra.
I don't like having someone above me.
I don't want to prove anything but I don't want to disappoint myself.
Sometimes in family when I lose at a game, I smile but it is to hide my disappointment.
How do you cope with this pressure at your age?
I try to take a step back.
I know people, even though they've never seen me play, have a garbled image of me.
People talk about me without knowing me.
I am aware of all that, the stakes.
It is no longer just a game, a pleasure.
But my family helps me keep my head on my shoulders.
If one day I get lost, she will be there for me.