Mendoza: Wemby

Mendoza.
Mendoza.File photo

A recent article by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press deserves praise. It was about Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 Draft pick this year in the NBA (National Basketball Association).

The towering 7-foot-4 French was described initially by Reynolds as “passing the tests.”

“Wembanyama’s numbers so far are 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game,” wrote Reynolds. “The last player to have such averages over the first seven games of his NBA career was Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. Back then, the consensus was O’Neal (7-foot-1) was one-of-a-kind. The refrains are familiar today.”

The one with string bean features, who goes by the moniker Wemby, has been wowing the crowds, even sinking threes to go with dunks done with contagious casualness.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Reynolds quoted Indiana coach Rick Carlisle as saying.

Wemby is aware of the hoopla and hysteria.

“Every night is a challenge,” said Wemby, who was born on Jan. 4, 2004, in Le Chesnay, France, and who speaks fluent English.

He comes from a family steeped in competitive sports. His father, Felix, is a Congolese and was a track and field athlete, who competed in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Wemby took up his mother’s sport: basketball. Elodie de Fautereau is a basketball coach after retiring from the game.

Wemby’s coach, the Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich, speaks glowingly of his catch.

“He’s one of the most mature 19-year-olds I’ve ever been around,” Popovich, the NBA’s winningest coach, told Reynolds. “His character is incredible. He understands who he is, he feels comfortable in his own skin.”

On Oct. 31, 2023, Wemby and the Spurs beat the Suns, 115-114, after being down by 20 points and trailing for 47-1/2 minutes in the 48-minute contest. Two nights later, Wemby whipped up 38 points and 10 rebounds to power the Spurs past the Suns again, 132-121.

“He’s going to be a force in this league for a long time,” said Suns forward Kevin Durant.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James summed it all up: “The guy’s going to be great.”

“There’s no formula,” said Popovich. “Luckily, he’s intelligent and coachable.”

However, will Wemby wait for a future with certainty?

Oops! Reality barks — but it does not bite all of the time.

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