HENDERSON, Nev. — While Chris Paul and A’ja Wilson watched courtside, French basketball star Victor Wembanyama, the uncanny 7-foot-5 center and scheduled No. 1 NBA draft pick, put on a 37-point show Tuesday Night at the Dollar Loan Center against the G League Ignite and Scoot Henderson, the predicted No. 2.
Henderson scored 28 points and led his team to a 122-115 victory.
At half-time, Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92, a pro team from France, were down 71-52 before taking a one-goal lead in the second half to battle Ignite.
“At some point it was just about taking over because our team needed players who could get promoted because we were down [21 points], I think,” said Wembanyama, who admitted it was his first time playing longer quarters (games in Europe last 40 minutes versus 44 minutes in the NBA and G League), has taken a toll on his stamina. “Coming back from leadership like that is a difficult task . … There are times when you have to do what you have to do.”
Henderson finished 11:21 and led his team to victory with impressive shots, drives and dunks, including a 3-pointer and reverse layup over Wembanyama in the first half.
However, he said he never viewed the game as a matchup between himself and Wembanyama.
“It’s easy to play basketball on a stage,” he said after the game. “I took that with me from that night.”
Tuesday night’s game was the first of two showcases between the teams this week in Henderson, about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. The teams will play again on Thursday at 12pm.
It was Wembanyama’s first game in the United States. He finished 11-to-20 (7-to-11 on 3-pointers) with five blocks — and with a number of notable players and NBA officials getting to see him up close.
Chelsea Gray and Wilson, the stars of the Las Vegas Aces, who have won both a WNBA title and a FIBA World Championship in recent weeks, sat at the baseline. Phoenix Suns stars Devin Booker and Paul and free agent DeMarcus Cousins also all had front-row seats.
“He’s good,” Gray said of Wembanyama. “Being so big and tall with waking skills is nice.”
Paul said he came to the game to watch the top prospects battle and because of his passion for basketball.
“I’m a big fan of the game,” said Paul. “All these guys are trying to get into the league.”
The NBA teams hoping for luck in the draft lottery on May 16 were also in the building. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was one of nearly 200 NBA officials who received a pass for the game, said Mara Rudolph, Ignite’s public relations director.
Reporters from France and Brazil also attended.
Both Wembanyama and Henderson lived up to the hype.
Wembanyama, endowed with an array of skills perhaps never possessed by a player his size, started the game with point guard on one of his team’s early possessions before turning a defender and double pumping on a backboard layup, what that dazzled crowd. After a few big blocks, however, his offense mostly stalled against pressure from Ignite.
“He was incredible,” said Metropolitans 92 coach Vincent Collet after the game. “Which he can do very well with his size, his agility, mobility, not just his ability to shoot the 3. He even made some very good passes. I think he [had] a really good game but he will also learn from the first half. He has to fight more because he knows he has to deal with that kind of aggressive defense.”
After halftime, Wembanyama showed some of the other moves that prompted an Eastern Conference NBA scout to tell ESPN, “We’ve never seen anyone like him.” Wembanyama hit multiple 3-pointers that helped his team get back into the game game and take the lead in the fourth quarter, including a late block on Henderson’s layup attempt.
“Some players come and they’re special,” said Ignite coach Jason Hart. “He’s just a special talent.”
One thing seemed clear after Tuesday’s game, however, through conversations with some NBA folks who watched the game: Wembanyama could be in its own category for the 2023 NBA draft.
When asked if he’s ever seen anyone like Wembanyama, Cousin, the former NBA All-Star, said, “Nah man.”
“These children are becoming increasingly rare,” he added. “They grow fast. You are bigger than ever. … I just wanted to be a fan and see it firsthand.”
https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34729860/victor-wembanyama-stars-scoot-henderson-leads-g-league-ignite-victory-no-1-vs-no-2-matchup-nba-draft-prospects Victor Wembanyama stars, Scoot Henderson leads G League Ignite to victory in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of NBA draft prospects