Wembanyama dazzles in his debut on American soil

HENDERSON, Nev. — With Chris-Paul and A’ja Wilson watching from the court, France’s Victor Wembanyama, the astonishing 7-foot-5 center (and projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft), put on a show with a 37-point performance against G League Ignite and Scott Henderson.

Henderson, a possible second pick, scored 28 points and led his team to a 122-115 victory.

At halftime, Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92, a professional team from France, trailed 71-52 before the center shouldered the team in the second half.

“At some point, it was just about taking over because our team needed players to step up,” Wembanyama said.

Henderson went 11-for-21 and led his team to victory with his own display of impressive shooting and dunks, including a 3-pointer and reverse layup over Wembanyama in the first half.

However, he said that he never thought of the game as a matchup between himself and Wembanyama.

“It’s just playing basketball on a big stage,” he said after the game. “That’s what I took from tonight.”

Tuesday night’s game was the first of two exhibitions between the teams this week in Henderson, about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. The teams will play again Thursday at noon local time (3 pm ET).

It was Wembanyama’s first game in the United States. He went 11-for-20 (7-for-11 from 3-point range) with five blocks, and with several notable players and NBA representatives available to watch up close.

Chelsea Gray and Wilson, the Las Vegas Aces stars who have captured both a WNBA title and a FIBA ​​World Cup championship in recent weeks, sat on the baseline. The stars of the Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker and Paul, and free agent DeMarcus Cousins ​​also had ringside seats.

“It’s good,” Gray said of Wembanyama. “Being so big and tall with guard 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 huge fan of the game,” said Paul. “All these guys are trying to get into the league.”

NBA teams hoping to get lucky in the May 16 lottery draft were also in the building. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was one of nearly 200 NBA representatives who received credentials for the game, Ignite public relations director Mara Rudolph said.

Reporters from France and Brazil also attended.

Both Wembanyama and Henderson lived up to the hype.

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Wembanyama dazzles in his debut on American soil