Victor Wembanyama: LeBron James' praise an 'honor' but still have goals to reach

HENDERSON, Nev. -- On Thursday, Victor Wembanyama's teammates pulled him aside and showed him a video of LeBron James calling the projected No. 1 pick in next summer's NBA draft "a generational talent" and "an alien."

Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 talent from France who has wowed spectators and NBA execs alike in his first trip to America this week, said he still has more work to do before he deserves such high praise.

"It's obviously an honor to see such great people talk like this about me, but it really doesn't change anything," he said after leading his Metropolitans 92 squad to a 112-106 win over G League Ignite at Dollar Loan Center. "I was like, 'Oh that's cool.' But no more. I have to try to stay focused. The thing is ... I didn't do anything yet."

With Scoot Henderson, the projected No. 2 pick in next summer's draft and leader of G League Ignite, sidelined with a knee injury early in the game, Wembanyama was the main event Thursday. He finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 assists in a 112-106 win, as Minnesota Timberwolves star Rudy Gobert -- a French basketball standout and Wembanyama's good friend -- watched courtside.

Wembanyama was more aggressive as he attacked the basket while still managing to hit shots in rhythm with a skill set some NBA reps in attendance said they'd never witnessed from a player that size.

On Tuesday, he finished with 37 points and went 7-for-11 from the 3-point line in a 122-115 loss to G League Ignite in the same building. A'ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeMarcus Cousins all sat in the front row for that game.

James said the hype about Wembanyama is real.

"Everybody has been labeling this unicorn thing," James said Wednesday night after scoring 23 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns in a preseason game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. "Everybody has been a unicorn for the last two years, but he's more like an alien. I've never seen -- no one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor.

"... His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers out of the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots ... he's for sure a generational talent."

But Wembanyama said he must continue to grow and not get caught up in the hype about his potential.

"I didn't play in an NBA game yet," said Wembanyama, who attended the Lakers-Timberwolves game later Thursday night and was seen shaking handing with James and Anthony Davis. "I wasn't drafted, so I've got to stay focused to reach my goals. Because it's going to be tough to get better every day and stay consistent."

Shareef O'Neal, who scored eight points in his debut for G League Ignite on Thursday, said he called his father, Shaquille O'Neal, to ask him for tips to stop Wembanyama.

"He said the tallest person he ever played against was either Manute Bol or Yao Ming," Shareef O'Neal said. "I don't think there is a player like him. There are not too many players that can move like him at that size. [My father] was just saying, 'You have to be aggressive. He's a little taller, just try to get into him and try to get into his face.' And I tried my best to do that. That's the only thing he said. He said he's never played against anybody who can shoot like that and have skills like that at that size, so he couldn't really help me on that one."

Wembanyama will return to France amid a rapid buzz that has changed his profile in the United States over the past 48 hours.

Praise continued to pour in Thursday, with Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant saying: "That type of talent and skill, it just puts a smile on your face if you play basketball because the evolution of the game has taken on this far. ... The league's really in trouble when he comes in. I want to see how it plays out." And Stephen Curry added: "He's like the (NBA) 2K create-a-player, every point guard that wants to be 7-foot. Cheat-code type vibes, man. He's a solid talent. It's great to watch.''

Overall, Wembanyama said the trip to America exceeded his expectations. And it made him a star.

"My impression of the American game? That was really great," he said. "I hardly see how it could have been better. Maybe if we'd won [on Tuesday]. But that was a great experience, really once-in-a-lifetime. I want to thank all of the organizations that allowed us to come here."