“The Detroit Pistons choose in 7e position… Killian Hayes » : at the announcement of NBA boss Adam Silver, the 19-year-old leader became, Wednesday, November 18, the highest drafted player in the history of French basketball.
Coronavirus pandemic obliges, there was not the traditional handshake with the commissioner of the League, nor the bubbling of a large public as should have initially occurred in the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. But that didn’t stop the cries of joy shouted by those close to Hayes upon hearing his name live via videoconference.
He especially experienced “A great relief”, he subsequently reacted. “Because in my head I knew it was Detroit, but nothing was guaranteed. So I was really happy. You could see the reaction of my mom and dad, who were jumping for joy. There is a lot of excitement. I feel super proud of myself ”.
It must be said that the moment is historic: he is doing better than the leader Frank Ntilikina, drafted in 8e position in 2017 by the New York Knicks, and that pivot Joakim Noah selected in 9e position by Chicago in 2007. It is the 19e French player to be drafted in the first round, after the pioneer Tariq Abdul-Wahad, chosen in 11e position by the Sacramento Kings in 1997.
Even though he is a native of Lakeland, Florida, Hayes, who is set to make his debut in the world’s toughest basketball league in just over a month, will discover a whole different environment in Detroit than he did. built himself as a young player.
He was trained in Cholet, like a certain Rudy Gobert before him, where his American father, DeRon, also played pro; then went to fencing in 1e German division last year, within Ratiopharm Ulm, in order to toughen up.
So far his trajectory has been meteoric: European champion U16 in 2017, vice-world champion U17 in 2018, twice French champion U18 (2017 and 2018), champion of France Espoirs (2018), this left-handed, great (1.96m) and athletic, able to keep his cool and take responsibility in close games, has the potential to win very quickly among the Pistons.
He will join a team whose back line was somewhat the weak point, apart from the presence of Derrick Rose, with the prospect of making a place of holder quite quickly, maybe even immediately. He will have to surround him another star, winger Blake Griffin, and will find another « Frenchie », Seykou Doumbouya, who settled down well in the workforce last season. What to facilitate its adaptation.
A fate like Tony Parker, best Frenchman in NBA history, quadruple champion with San Antonio, is what we can wish him the best. “I want to be remembered as someone who wants to win”, he told the press earlier this week.
“Inspire young French people”
“I know basketball is gaining momentum in France, but it’s not as important as football. I want to inspire young French people, make them aware that they can go to the NBA and that their dreams can come true ”, he added.
The first part of the way is done, and in its wake, Théo Maledon was drafted in 34e position, at 2e turn, by Philadelphia who immediately sent him to Oklahoma City, to pick up shooter Danny Green in a trade. A slight disappointment for the 18-year-old point guard who hoped to be drafted at 1is tower. But smaller than for the other three Frenchmen Killian Tillie, Abdoulaye Ndoye and Mouhamed Thiam, ultimately not selected.
Earlier in the evening, full-back Anthony Edwards was selected first by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coming from the University of Georgia, he will join a team that already has a core of young stars with the pivot Karl-Anthony Towns and the back D’Angelo Russell.
The interior James Wiseman was taken in 2e position by the Golden State Warriors, while the Charlotte Hornets, franchise owned by Michael Jordan, opted for point guard LaMelo Ball – brother of Lonzo Ball who plays for the Pelicans – in 3e position.
No big favorite emerged from this 2020 vintage, unlike last year’s one which saw the Zion Williamson phenomenon stand out and be selected as expected by the New Orleans Pelicans. All these young players will only have one month to prepare, before the season kicks off on December 22.