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Are there international prospects beyond France fans to keep an eye on? Oui! – News-Herald

Are there international prospects beyond France fans to keep an eye on?  Oui!  – News-Herald
Are there international prospects beyond France fans to keep an eye on?  Oui!  – News-Herald

 


By KEN MAGUIRE

France isn't the only country producing top NBA prospects — it just seems that way.

Victor Wembanyama was the no. 1 pick in the NBA draft a year ago and went on to win the league's Rookie of the Year award.

Two more Frenchmen – Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher – are expected to be drafted Wednesday night. Tidjane Salaun is another potential lottery pick from France and Pacome Dadiet could go late in the first round.

But the international group extends beyond France. Other prospects include Serbia's Nikola Topic and Nikola Djurisic, Sweden's Bobby Klintman, Spain's Juan Nunez and Cameroon's Ulrich Chomche.

Here's a closer look:

Nikola Tema (Serbia)

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a partially torn ACL but is still projected to be a first-round pick. He doesn't turn 19 until August. He was projected as a top-five prospect early in the 2023-24 season after his performance with Mega Belgrade — the former team of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Topic made a mid-season move to his original club Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) to play alongside one of his idols, Milos Teodosic, and get some meaningful minutes in the EuroLeague. But he missed time with a left knee injury — before the ACL problem that came later.

“I'm working on my rehab with the knee injury and that's the main focus right now,” Topic said in a video call with reporters June 4 from the NBA's pre-draft camp in Treviso, Italy. “After that, I will work in basketball. … I've been doing (the) weight room. It is not 100% healed. I haven't started running or working out with (the) basketball. The focus is on my rehabilitation, on my knee and mainly on my body.”

In the latest AP NBA Mock Draft, Tema is projected to be the 15th pick. He needs to improve his 3-point shooting – after shooting around 30% last season. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game in an injury-shortened season.

Nikola Djurisic (Serbia)

The 6-7 small forward has logged big minutes the past two years as a starter with Mega, where he was teammates with Topic for part of last season. The 20-year-old Djurisic improved his 3-point shooting this season, but still shot just 30.5% overall — and 33.6% in 30 Adriatic League games. He averaged 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 3.2 turnovers.

In an interview with the Indiana Pacers when he visited there for a pre-draft workout, the 209-pound Djurisic said he's trying to show he's a “three-level scorer, can guard multiple positions, can go 1-on-4.” He says he's “definitely a creator” on the floor “who cares about finding open teammates.” He is projected as a second round pick.

Bobby Klintman (Sweden)

The 21-year-old Swede played last season in Australia as part of the National Basketball League's “Next Stars” program. A versatile 6-foot-9 forward, Klintman shot 36% from 3-point range in 23 NBL games for the Cairns Taipans while averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The 212-pound Klintman played one season at Wake Forest and went undrafted last year. The AP mock draft projects Klintman to go toward the end of the first round.

Juan Nunez (Spain)

After developing through Real Madrid's youth system, the 6-4 point guard played with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany the past two seasons. The lefty shot 31.9% from 3-point range in his two seasons there.

The 20-year-old Nunez has shown improvement. He averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 2023-24 and in 15 EuroCup games he increased those numbers to 10.8 points, 5.7 assists and shot 35% from beyond the arc. A crafty playmaker, the 205-pound Nunez lacks explosiveness. He's not an elite defender, but he can be disruptive on that end of the floor. Nunez shot just 60.7% from the free throw line last season. Most mock drafts project Nunez as a second-round pick, which could make for a draft-and-sweep candidate.

Ulrich Chomche (Cameroon)

The 6-10 center is trying to become the first NBA Academy student-athlete to go directly to an NBA team. The 232-pound Chomche just happens to be eligible for this draft — he turns 19 on Dec. 30.

He has played in two seasons of the African Basketball League. Chomche was preparing for a third season, but withdrew when he received an invitation to the NBA combine. In the three BAL qualifiers he played for the academy team, he averaged 13 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocks. His game is often described as “raw”, due to his limitations on the offensive end. However, with a 7-foot wingspan, he can certainly block shots and protect the rim. Africa academy alums Senegal's Babacar Sané and Central African Republic's Thierry Darlan headed to the G League Ignite. Sané is in the draft; Darlan had declared but withdrew.

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