Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Wembanyama is here to stay

Before the seasons end, the rookie sensation is already a premier face in the NBA
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There weren’t many doubters in the San Antonio Spurs’ plan 10 months ago when the franchise landed its third No. 1 overall pick, almost guaranteeing the can’t-miss French prospect, Victor Wembanyama, would be the team’s savior. 

And there weren’t many doubters on how Wembanyama would turn out. Most people would say when his career is all said and done that he may win an MVP or two, while bringing the Spurs back to title contention and even winning an NBA championship. But there were consternations on how long it would take for Wembanyama to adjust to the league, and how fast he could enter the “best players in the NBA” conversation. 

But now in the final month of the regular season — and just a few games left for the 19-59 Spurs — there’s no discussion among any honest basketball watcher about how successful Wembanyama’s rookie campaign has been. The once-debated debate between him or Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren for Rookie of the Year is over. The question of who the best player is in San Antonio is set –– and for years to come. And now Wembanyama is a heavily marketed player, with his 8-foot wingspan being shown off holding H-E-B grocery bags on a billboard off I-35, multiple Louis Vuitton advertisements placed around the city and his recently announced “Alien” mid-top Nike shoes dropping in May. 

After missing out on the first two NBA Rookie of the Month honors to Holmgren, Wembanyama has been the recipient of the trophy in all three months since. As the season has progressed, it’s become more obvious that the Frenchman has not only become the penciled-in Rookie of the Year, but is now a no-doubt premier player in the league. 

It didn’t take long for Wemby to separate himself from the rookie class to among the faces of the NBA. The real jump came after the All-Star break, when the Spurs played the Los Angeles Lakers and Wembanyama and LeBron James went toe-to-toe in Arena, with the 7-foot-3 sensation becoming the youngest player ever to record a 5×5 stat line in the 113-108 loss on Feb. 23. Wembanyama had arguably his best game to date with his 40-point performance against the New York Knicks in a 130-126 win on March 29. 

The Spurs have since gotten to showcase Wembanyama as a solo act. Since San Antonio announced that starters Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan were out for the remainder two weeks of the season with injury, Wemby has gotten four games to be the opposing teams’ focal point. 

His averages in that span? 26.3 points, 13.5 boards and seven assists per game, compared to his 21.1, 10.6 and 3.8 season averages. Sunday’s 133-126 double overtime loss against Philadelphia notched another feat for Wembanyama, where he finished with his 25th 20-point and 10-rebound game of the season. The rest of the rookie class has 19 of those games combined, with no one else having more than six. 

“I was surprised sometimes by what was actually hard in this league and what was actually easy,” he said of his nearly concluded rookie season. “You can’t know before you experience it.”

Wembanyama elaborated on his astonishment. 

“I would’ve thought that it would be way harder on the body, like the pain and everything. What was harder than I imagined was going out every night against superstars and actually applying the scouting, and the coaches [on] what he wants you to do.”

Perhaps his 20-year-old body won’t face the aches and pains his 30-year-old body will, but for Wembanyama to already have never-before-seen highlight compilations posted all over the internet and having several historic outings before being legally allowed an alcoholic beverage can only be compared to legends such as James or Michael Jordan or Kareen Abdul-Jabbar. This isn’t to say that he will complete the Mount Rushmore of the NBA. But it has to be acknowledged that through 78 games of the 82-game season, Wemby, who has out-dueled the game’s best players, finished with multiple 30-plus-point games and leads the league in blocks by a mile, is already one of the best players in the world. 

And just remember: this is supposed to be the worst he will ever be. 

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawhorn
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.

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