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Gobert and Ajinca

Paris (George Eddy's International Show) - There's a brewing controversy in French Basketball concerning the future of top prospect Rudy Gobert.

The 20-year-old athlete has NBA scouts drooling over his 2.15m heigh, 2.36m wingspan as well as his running and jumping skills which are off the charts and might make him the highest French draft pick since Joakim Noah was chosen in ninth position in 2007.

Gobert's potential is enormous but he is rail thin and only averaging 7,5 points in 20 minutes of playing time per game for Cholet in the French Pro A.

His best stats are blocked shots and rebounding, especially when you take into account his limited playing time, and he has clearly stated his case to his coach and team in order to play more but he has been hampered by a sore ankle for several weeks.

His club coach Jean Manuel Sousa and the French national team coach Vincent Collet have pleaded with his entourage to give him more time in Europe to develop his skills and physique but Rudy seems set upon joining an NBA franchise next season.

Ten NBA scouts and numerous media were present for his latest performance against Collet's Strasbourg team which exasperated coach Sousa but highlighted the way modern day scouting and recruiting put a premium on young talent and potential, sometimes to the detriment of the best development of the player's career.

The scouts came to Cholet hoping to see a match-up between Gobert and former NBA bench-warmer Alexis Ajinca but the latter was injured and replaced by former Cholet player Romain Duport (2m17!) who played the best game of his career (19 points and 15 rebounds!) getting some sweet revenge on his old team, which had cut him earlier in the season to open up more playing time for Gobert.

Rudy finished with nine points, three rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes in Cholet's close victory but we must ask ourselves, is he really ready for the NBA? He could look at Ajinca's career as an example of a tall and frail center drafted in the first round who played little in the NBA, a little more in the NBDL, during four unmemorable seasons before returning to France where he is, at the age of 24, playing his best basketball for Strasbourg (averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds a game).

Centers take longer to develop than guards and they often reach their peak around the age of 27.

Other French or European big men have given the priority to their financial future by going too early to the NBA and it's difficult to criticize their choice from an economic standpoint.

However, this has too often been disastrous for their playing career because the most important thing for any young player is to PLAY.

The system needs to be tweaked with the possibility to loan drafted players to foreign teams so that they can play and develop their skills.

The logical progression and successful path that a lot of players like Luis Scola, Tiago Splitter, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez or Manu Ginobili - among many others - have chosen, is to dominate in Europe before going to the NBA as a more mature and experienced player.

The goal for Gobert and his entourage is to succeed over the long term and have a career along the lines of the Pau and Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka and avoid the NBA disappointment of an Alexis Ajinca or Hasheem Thabeet.

George Eddy


FIBA’s columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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