Thierry Darlan

And-Ones: Ignite, 2024 Draft, Unsuccessful Pairings, Eddy Curry

The G League Ignite’s impressive collection of talent was on display Wednesday night in Nevada, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Six players who may be selected in next year’s draft were on the court for the Ignite, and a seventh, Thierry Darlan of France, missed the game against Perth, Australia, with an ankle injury.

The biggest attraction was guard Ron Holland, whom Hollinger considers the “betting favorite” to be the top pick in 2024. Hollinger adds that Holland isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 choice like Victor Wembanyama was this year, but he looked good in his first pro game, using a mix of explosiveness and ferocity to put up 23 points.

“Ron is very, very competitive” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “So now I’m wanting to channel it to where the opposition doesn’t know if you’re mad or you’re happy. I just told him to relax, calm down … I think he heard me. But that’s going to be a process because he’s so competitive, and I don’t want to take that from him. That’s his thing; he’s just has to learn how to use it.”

Matas Buzelis and Izan Almansa, who are projected to be top-10 picks, also showed off their skills, Hollinger adds, along with Tyler Smith, London Johnson and Perth prospects Alex Sarr and Ben Henshall. The teams will meet again on Friday.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

International Notes: Wembanyama, Darlan, Schröder, Yao

Victor Wembanyama‘s overwhelming popularity is creating a lot of new basketball fans in France, writes Sam Borden of ESPN. Borden notes that it has long been a “niche sport,” far behind soccer in the French sporting landscape, but Wembanyama has been drawing massive crowds, especially as his time in the French league nears its end.

Nearly 16,000 people attended his most recent game in Accor Arena — the largest venue in Paris, which has been hosting Metropolitans 92 games in light of Wembanyama’s celebrity status — and tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars on the resale market. The Wembanyama phenomenon figures to create a huge crop of new NBA fans in France when he begins playing for the Spurs in the fall.

“We’ve had this traditional setup in France — you are going to play the sport your dad played, or the sport he watches,” said Maxime Raynaud, who plays at Stanford. “And so for the past 100 years, everyone just picked up a soccer ball. Now, we have access to basketball. We have role models for basketball. And Victor is going to be the face of that.”

Wembanyama has a crucial playoff game today as his team’s best-of-three series with Cholet is tied at 1-1. Beyond winning an LNB Pro A title and making an impact in the NBA, he has his eyes on the 2024 Olympics, which will take place in Paris.

“My goal,” he said, “is to beat Team USA in the final.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • After officially signing with G League Ignite, Thierry Darlan hopes to prove that Africa can produce NBA-level guards as well as big men, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Darlan hails from the Central African Republic and graduated from the NBA Academy Africa. “When they talk about basketball in Africa, they always talk about the center, the big,” Darlan said. “It’s a big challenge to change that to talking about (a) point guard. In Africa, we’re not just known to run the floor and get rebounds. We can do many things, too. We can pass the ball. Create for others. That is my mission to show that African players can do more.”
  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder, who is entering free agency, said he plans to play for Germany this summer in the FIBA World Cup, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • Hall of Famer Yao Ming has stepped down as head of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to an Associated Press report. No official explanation was given, but the league has been plagued by allegations of corruption, including match fixing.

And-Ones: Darlan, Ignite, 2023 Draft, Vet Extensions, Team Canada

The G League Ignite has secured another top prospect for the 2023/24 season. Thierry Darlan, a point guard from the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal, has committed to the Ignite, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

According to Givony, Darlan drew interest from NCAA schools like Arizona, Kansas, and Santa Clara, but has decided to compete in the G League rather than going the college route. Although the 19-year-old is technically eligible to enter the 2023 draft, per Givony, he’s expected to wait until 2024 to declare as an early entrant.

In his latest 2024 mock draft, Givony projected Darlan to be the No. 45 pick. The 6’7″ guard becomes the fourth prospect projected to be drafted in ’24 who will suit up for the Ignite next season, joining Babacar Sane (No. 24 in Givony’s mock), London Johnson (No. 31), and potential No. 1 pick Matas Buzelis.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In a pair of articles this week for Bleacher Report, Jonathan Wasserman shares a new two-round 2023 mock draft and received input from scouts on which college players’ stocks have risen and fallen the most in recent weeks. Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther and Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski are among the risers, while Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis and Oregon’s Kel’el Ware are a couple of the fallers.
  • Following up on a report from Shams Charania that indicated the new CBA could change the rules for veteran contract extensions, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype explores why those modifications have been deemed necessary and considers which players could be most affected by the potential tweaks.
  • While Team USA is no longer requiring its stars to make multiyear commitments to the program, the Canadian national team secured three-year commitments from stars like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray and appears well positioned to send a competitive squad to this year’s World Cup and perhaps next year’s Olympics, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.