SAN ANTONIO – French phenom Victor Wembanyama has made the rounds of national television talk shows after being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
The 7-foot-3 1/2 center has conducted more press conferences than he can count. He has attended numerous public appearances and he even squeezed in a dinner with a group of Hall of Famers.
It comes with being perhaps one of the most hyped prospects the NBA has ever seen. A charismatic 19-year-old who has the agility and the skills of a guard while standing taller than almost everyone, it’s little wonder Wembanyama’s time has been stretched more than his 8-foot wingspan.
“I think I’ve spent more time with the media than on the court,” Wembanyama said Friday as he met the media for the first time since starting work with the team.
After being tasked with so many commitments off the court, Wembanyama finally took to the court Wednesday to practice with the Spurs for the first time as they prepare for upcoming summer leagues.
“It felt really good, felt really good,” Wembanyama said. “Also, I had a warm welcome with the guys. Yeah, I just can’t wait. I was told beforehand that there was a good dynamic with the team on and off the court and I started to feel it already. It just makes me even more certain that this is a good environment.”
Wembanyama is home, even if he still hasn’t had time to find a house in San Antonio.
Wembanyama will not play in the California Classic Summer League that opens July 3 in Sacramento. He will compete in the NBA 2K24 Summer League on July 7-17 in Las Vegas.
“I don’t know how it works yet (as far as) how many minutes I’m going to play,” he said. “I know I’m going to have a big role and it’s going to be intense. I can’t wait to wear that Spurs jersey for the first time.”
His excitement has only grown since he was drafted by the Spurs on June 22.
Shortly after arriving in San Antonio, Wembanyama had dinner with Hall of Famers David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, along with fellow former Spurs star Sean Elliott.
“He asked us, ‘How can you get enough sleep on the road,’” Elliott said of the dinner. “What kind of young person asks that question? Most guys are like ‘Hey, what’s the best club to go to in (Philadelphia) or (New York).’”
It’s all part of Wembanyama’s desire to win an NBA title with the Spurs, just like his fellow Frenchmen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.
In addition to asking the right questions, Wembanyama worked with a personal trainer to add weight safely to his long frame this year leading up to the draft.
“To be able to play through 82 games a season, I’ve got to go through a lot of conditioning and level up on the energy level,” Wembanyama said.
He has already impressed his teammates and coaches in San Antonio with his work ethic, as well as his skills on the court during his first two days of practice.
“He’s a unique player and it’s on us as coaches to find some good spots for him to develop in those areas,” said Matt Nielsen, Spurs assistant coach and Summer League coach. “In saying that, he’s got a lot to learn about NBA basketball and the Spurs. There’s a lot going on for him, it’s just exciting to watch him out there.”
Part of preparing for his upcoming rookie season also included making a “really hard” decision not to play for France in the FIBA Basketball Cup, which opens Aug. 25.
“I had a long season with the Mets 92, and I’ll have a long season with the Spurs and there’s the Olympics after that,” Wembanyama said about his team in France last season. “I just think more than two years without rest is too big of a risk. There are really big events coming up, like the Olympics, that I really, really don’t want to miss. So, to be able to be available for the national team for the next I don’t know how many years, I feel like I have to miss this one.”