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Victor Wembanyama’s increasingly accomplished performances since January have also established him as a leader in the Spurs dressing room, a role that was not necessarily obvious in his early days.

How many players would have lost their cool in his place? Victor Wembanyama endured Canadian forward Dillon Brooks’ tough defense against Houston on Tuesday night, playing with his arms and elbows throughout the game to prevent him from getting close to the circle. While the plan worked, with the Rockets winning on the wire (103-101), and a less successful game than usual for “Wemby” (13 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists), the Frenchman remained unflappable during his 31 minutes on the floor…

“It’s out of the question for me to lose my composure or send a negative image to my teammates. Even when I miss, I don’t shake my head. I don’t send the wrong message, I just keep it to myself,” he explained ten days earlier after his team’s 117-105 home win over Indiana.

Impressive since the start of January (22.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists on average over the last 30 games), the French international is increasingly establishing himself as an exemplary leader for the Spurs, both on and off the court.


Shared leadership

With just over an hour to go before the start of Monday’s game against Golden State, Keldon Johnson, as usual, chose AC/DC hits to motivate himself. With the speaker volume cranked up, the Spurs’ No. 3 screams back and forth near the entrance to the locker room. ” He’s always shouting (laughs). He’s the one you hear the most from the group, and he also brings us a lot of energy. Dev (Devin Vassell) does too, but in a different, calmer style,” comments team-mate Julian Champagnie.

A seniority bonus despite their young age, since Johnson (24) and Vassell (23) joined San Antonio in 2019 and 2020 respectively, within a squad that is just reaching an average age of 23 this season. “Overall, I find the leadership is shared. One night it’ ll be Tre (Jones) , another it’ll be Victor,” adds the 22-year-old fullback, whose locker sits next to Victor Wembanyama’s.


“You’d see our dressing room at half-time, everyone’s talking. Even though we’re a very young team, we help each other out a lot,” continues winger Sandro Mamukelashvili (24), seated at the back right of the room, near the access to the showers. “Victor, he was a bit shy in the first few games, perhaps overthinking what he should say, or how to phrase it.” An observation shared by young fullback Blake Wesley (20). “He was in the background at the start of the season, like me when I arrived last year. It takes a little time to get into the rhythm and feel comfortable.

Blake Wesley, Victor Wembanyama’s teammate

“He’s got a great sense of humor. He taught me a joke in French the other day…”.

Victor Wembanyama is still not the most extroverted player in the dressing room today, even if his impact has largely evolved in recent weeks. Frankly, he’s far from being silent; he’s talking to us more and more,” confirms Julian Champagnie. He’s very motivating and doesn’t hesitate to vent his frustrations at half-time if something isn’t going right.”

Asked about the issue after the game against Indiana, his coach Gregg Popovich refocused the subject on the court, explaining how much his young player sets an example during matches. “His most unique quality for his young age is his composure. Successful or unsuccessful, he remains the same. He’s always classy on the floor, and his teammates realize how mature he is despite his young age.”

“He’s clearly one of the best teammates I’ve been lucky enough to come across,” continues Blake Wesley. He’s got a great sense of humor. He taught me a joke in French the other day, but I can’t repeat it in front of the cameras (laughs).”


Sandro Mamukelashvili, Victor Wembanyama’s teammate

“I’ve been around a lot of rookies, and Victor’s nothing like a rookie. He reminds me of Giannis, and I think he’s going to get even better.

This maturity highlighted by “Pop” has not ceased to surprise Sandro Mamukelashvili, who sees similarities between Victor Wembanyama and Giannis Antetokounmpo, his teammate in Milwaukee between August 2021 and March 2023. “I’ve been around a lot of rookies, and Victor’s no rookie. He knows what he wants, he’s passionate and works very hard. He reminds me of Giannis, and I think he’s going to get even better.”

The recent No. 1 draft pick still has 18 games to make his mark in San Antonio, a first season at the end of which he should win the title of best rookie (ROTY). Before establishing himself as the Spurs’ main leader? “It’s still his first year, and he’s got two guys who’ve been around for a while and are taking up space (Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson). But he’s definitely joining them,” Champagnie concludes.


This post is originally from L’Équipe