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‘Butterflies’ for Wembanyama ahead of NBA debut

San Antonio Spurs' French forward Victor Wembanyama takes part in a practice session one day ahead of his first NBA game against the Dallas Mavericks, at the San Antonio Spurs' "The Rock at La Cantera," practice facility in San Antonio, Texas on October 24, 2023. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

French teenager Victor Wembanyama admitted to having “butterflies” on Tuesday as he prepared to make his regular season NBA debut for the San Antonio Spurs.

The gifted No.1 Draft pick will be the center of attention across the league on Wednesday when he takes to the court in San Antonio’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks.

The talented 19-year-old is widely regarded as a once-in-a-generation player, tipped to have the same kind of impact on the NBA that LeBron James had when he landed in the league 20 years ago.

Wembanyama has taken the soaring hype in his stride, showing no sign of stage fright in a series of sparkling pre-season performances for San Antonio.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday on the eve of his debut, the 7ft 4in (2.25m) tall teenager acknowledged some nervous excitement as his personal D-Day approached.

“Some butterflies in my stomach, like I have before every match, depending on what’s at stake,” Wembanyama said.

“But it’s not like I’m shaking either — just a little stomach ache.”

Wembanyama’s debut will be the realisation of a lifelong dream for the Frenchman, who said he had been thinking about playing in the NBA for “as long as I have memories.”

While pre-season had given him a taste of what to expect in the NBA, Wembanyama said making his regular season start still felt “unreal.”

“I thought a month ago that some pre-season games would prepare me for this moment, but it’s totally different,” said Wembanyama, who has set himself a goal of winning “as many titles as I can” with San Antonio.

“I know it’s something you don’t easily do, most players have a career and never make it to the finals, or win championships,” Wembanyama said.

“It’s one of my biggest goals in life so I know I’m gonna reach this, one day or the other. I’m dedicating the next I don’t know how many years of my life to reach this. I’m ready to sacrifice anything.”

Wembanyama averaged just over 19 points a game in four pre-season appearances for San Antonio, but believes he still has not demonstrated the full range of his skills.

“I know nobody has seen my best so far,” he said.

Wembanyama revealed he had been on a steep learning curve since starting training with San Antonio, receiving insights to play at both ends of the court.

“In defense I’ve been in a role that I never had before. I love learning,” he said. “I’m really excited, it’s promising. We’ve learned quicker than I expected. Possibilities in defense are endless with this team.”

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