Top prospect Victor Wembanyama shows off his repertoire in high profile exhibition

HENDERSON, NV (AP) — Victor Wembanyama didn’t wait long to make an impression.

The 7ft 4in French phenom from the Metropolitans 92 club blocked shots at the rim and perimeter, got rebounds, ran on the ground, set up screens, scored on a clever spinning move, showed his ability to dribble, dived for a loose ball and even played point guard on a possession.

Oh, and that was all 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 on Tuesday night, but if they had, they wouldn’t have been harmed at any cost. Wembanyama has shown all the skills that make him widely presumed to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft.

His final numbers, in his first game under NBA rules and with 12-minute quarters: 37 points, 11 for 20 shots, seven 3-point shots, five blocked shots, four rebounds.

Victor Wembanyama (37 points) and Scoot Henderson (28 points) did not disappoint in Tuesday’s game in Las Vegas.

“He was amazing, sometimes,” 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 pick, for now anyway – finishing with 28 points and nine assists for the Ignite .

The teams will play again on Thursday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, ESPN 2 and NBA app). After that, the next time Wembanyama plays a game of any significance on American soil will likely be at the NBA Summer League next July.

“It was a great experience, a great experience,” Wembanyama said. “I can’t wait to start again. I know we will start again in two days, 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 3 points. Backward Riders. Did what seemed slightly reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s shrug in the 1992 NBA Finals after one of those shots went down. Played through what felt like a bit of a twisted peg, doing a 3 fadeaway while doing so. He even backed up rude calls like a seasoned NBA veteran and may have had a legitimate case a few times.

There are many ways for the 18 year old to improve. But it’s clear: He’s ready for the NBA, ready for the scrutiny that will come before the draft, the scrutiny that will come if he is indeed the No. 1 pick.

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

Even the things that didn’t appear next to Wembanyama’s name in the box score were mind-blowing at times. Case in point: A play midway through the second quarter when he placed a pick near midfield, rolled, caught a pass inches inside the 3-point line, took a dribble, and blew away – because at that time he was already in the middle of the lane. He tried to get over several Ignite players, shot, was fouled, ignored contact, and dunked the rebound.

It didn’t count, but there were still people sitting at the edge of the yard who reacted in disbelief.

There are always shows in Vegas, but Cirque du Soleil was not the French brand that captured the attention of the basketball world on Tuesday night.

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

“Everyone is going to watch it,” said Metropolitans 92 guard Tremont Waters, who played for three NBA clubs.

And it wasn’t just The Victor Show either. Henderson – another super-talented 18-year-old – thinks he should be the No. 1 pick and has had more than his share of moments. He got around Wembanyama’s incredible 8ft wingspan a few times for lay-ups, flew him to set up assists for Ignite teammates multiple times, also took a step back 3 on him.

“Scoot is pretty good,” Hart said.

He also attempted what would have been a dunk with 3:31 remaining. Wembanyama fended it off with ease. Henderson also attempted a 3 with 1:31 to go; Wembanyama sent that into the seats.

But Henderson – who had 11 of 21 from the field, with three of those 10 misses blocked by Wembanyama – more than lived up to his end of the bargain in this made-for-TV showdown.

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

Said Henderson: “I feel like I had an impact on the game.”

Henderson showed fire. He watched the Metropolitans bench for a long time when the time was called in the second quarter and the Ignite began to build their lead. Wembanyama also had a small advantage over him; he made a 3-pointer near the Ignite bench early in the second half, then turned around and glanced at those seated there, then converted a four-point play on his next possession.

Nicolas Batum, who played for Collet at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 and the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China, tweeted it during the second half: “One thing is for sure, c is the top 2 picks are LOCKED in for the next NBA Draft. .”

A lot can change by June. But Batum’s prediction seems pretty sure.

A Victor vs. Scoot show was what the NBA wanted. He delivered.

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