Batum And Bokolo Impressive in French Opener

Batum And Bokolo Impressive in French Opener
Sep 26, 2006, 11:19 pm
With the French Pro A league seeing it’s first action this past weekend, DraftExpress had the chance to scout two of France’s most interesting prospects, Nicolas Batum and Yannick Bokolo, as their Le Mans Sarthe club narrowly lost to Dijon, 69-70.

Batum, a 6-foot-8 swingman, was MVP of this summer's U-18 European Championship and is now playing at the highest level in France at only 17 years old. Bokolo on the other hand is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who entered the NBA Draft last spring before withdrawing, looking to prove to scouts that he can make the transition to a full time point guard. Born in 1985, last year’s runner up for France’s top young player award (behind Ian Mahinmi) will be automatically eligible for the 2007 NBA Draft.

Nicolas Batum played only 16 minutes, but made his presence greatly felt. He wreaked havoc on whomever he was guarding with his freakish length and outstanding athleticism, and literally did not allow a single point to his opposing man by DraftExpress’ count for the time he was in. Nicolas rotated extremely well in help side defense, and used his great wingspan to register multiple deflections and one steal. His ability to change the game defensively was truly special for a player of any age, much less a 17 year old playing at the highest level in France.

Offensively, the budding star was incredibly passive, taking only three shots the entire game. He knocked down his only three point attempt, and converted on one of his two 2-point attempts. It was evident that Batum could have made his presence felt more on the offensive end, as he broke his man down numerous times, but chose to kick the ball back out instead of taking it himself.

It’s clear to any fan watching that Le Mans had a future NBA player on their hands, although not matured quite yet. Batum showed why NBA scouts are so enamored with him, and displayed in his first game why many have him pegged as a lottery pick in the NBA Draft whenever he decides to come out. From what they’ve told us, Batum’s camp has almost definitely decided to put his name in this year’s draft. He just narrowly qualifies as being eligible--despite the age limit--due to the NBA’s rule of being 19 in the calendar year of the draft rather than when the draft will be held in June. Batum will be 19 years old in December of 2007.

Whether it would be in his best interest to do so is another story altogether, as there is a lot to be said for coming to the best league in the world in a position to actually contribute something—which Batum clearly is not and probably won’t be for a while. We’ll surely be a lot smarter about where he stands as a prospect once he has a full year of Euroleague experience underneath his belt. This is a dilemma we'll surely be talking plenty about leading up to June.

Batum’s teammate Yannick Bokolo is not quite the “can’t miss” prospect that his young counterpart is, but he is still an interesting one to say the least. Bokolo used his great length and lateral quickness to play solid defense in his 25 minutes on the floor. He was able to consistently stay in front of his man, and there was a clear let down defensively once Pape Philippe-Amagou came in to relieve him at point guard.


Speaking of playing point guard, it was interesting to see Yannick playing strictly as a playmaker, rather then the combo guard that he was considered earlier in his career. He did a great job of setting up his teammates and distributing the ball, almost to a fault however, only taking three shots the entire game. This is a far cry from the Bokolo we saw of last year, who displayed very poor shot selection at times, barely shooting 40% from the field. Either way, Yannick showed he is making the right steps in his transition to full time point guard based on his play in this opening game.

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