2019 NBA Draft: Meet Sekou Doumbouya, the possible lottery pick expected to be the first international player drafted
Doumbouya is an 18-year-old phenom from France who could go as high as the top 5 in this year's draft
Sekou Doumbouya, the top foreign prospect expected to be picked in the 2019 NBA Draft, wakes up at 7:30 a.m. each morning without fail. He goes for breakfast, then for a workout. Next, it's off to treatment, where he recently spent plenty of time nursing a torn ligament in his thumb. Finally, some rest, a reprieve, albeit brief, from the grind of the professional lifestyle he's endured for nearly three years. But by 5 p.m., he needs all the energy the rest provides for another grueling practice to continue his meteoric rise in France's A division, where he's wowed scouts with his length, versatility, and energy.
That's when the afternoon rest pays off.
Doumbouya is still just a teenager -- he turned 18-years-old two days before Christmas -- but the French sensation has been turning heads on the hardwood for several years in the pro ranks. He's a projected lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and still only scratching the surface of stardom his talent level and potential suggest he might reach.
"The kid is growing, probably going to stand at 6-9, 6-10 in a few months, and he's the perfect NBA player who can play the 2, the 3, the 4," said his agent Bouna Ndiaye, who has been involved with the drafting of a bevvy of talented prospects ranging from Nicolas Batum to Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier to Clint Capela -- the list goes on.
"This is probably the most exciting player I have ever gotten into my hands," Ndiaye said.
Doumbouya is no ordinary teenager. His schedule is as grueling as that of a CEO, his work ethic unmatched, and his raw potential and talent to boot makes him one of the most unique players to come out of France in years.
Kyle Milling, who coached the teenage star with Limoges CSP, recognized that very early on. He saw Doumbouya, and knew instantly he wanted him on his team.
"I like guys who are versatile and can do a lot of different things, someone who fits modern day basketball," said Milling, who recruited Doumbouya to play for Limoges CSP. "Does he really have a position? These days, a lot of guys can play multiple positions. Sekou is very raw, but he can defend 1, 2, 3 and 4, he can play the 3, play the 4. He can do a lot of different things."
Doumbouya learned his esteemed habits at an early age. At 15-and-a-half he was placed into the professional ranks where he battled men, some in their 30s, who have been earning their living playing ball for years. There was a learning curve. Expecting Doumbouya to dominate a league before he could legally drive a car without supervision was never realistic. But as he grew physically, so too did he mentally. He asked questions, sought clarity, worked hard, and put himself in position to succeed at every turn.
"He's been playing with grown men for a long time and when you circle back, you can see him catching up with these men," Ndiaye said. "Now he's making some trouble for them."
Doumbouya's roots and upbringing motivate him. Coming from France, he had a role model to look up to, a clear path to follow.
"Tony Parker opened the door for all international players," Ndiaye said.
That door that he is on the verge of plowing down has been plowed down plenty of late, too, with international players like Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis among many whose footsteps he hopes to follow.
"Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Parker are huge examples and inspiration for me because they came from overseas and to the NBA and actually performed at the highest level," Doumbouya said. "They are examples for all prospects overseas, and for me especially."
Doumbouya isn't yet a household name. You won't see his dunks taking up space on ESPN's SportsCenter like Duke star Zion Williamson, or his crisp passing being featured on the Top 10 like Ja Morant. But come June, Doumbouya's stock may be mentioned in the same breath as some of college's biggest stars because of what he's done on the court -- and what he projects to be in the NBA.
"He's really impressive," Milling said. "He asks questions, always willing to learn. It's not that he's just using his talent to skate by, he wants to get better, wants to be great. Sekou is a self-starter, he wants more. Wants to shoot more, wants to practice more. A lot of players have talent and ability, but his ceiling is sky high because his work ethic comes natural for him."
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