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Wembanyama won’t play for France at this year’s World Cup

PARIS (AP) – Victor Wembanyama has some bad news for France.

The new San Antonio Spurs player told L’Equipe newspaper he won’t play with the national basketball team at this year’s World Cup in order to protect his still developing body.

Wembanyama said it was a “difficult” decision to make, adding that it is “irrevocable.”

The World Cup is scheduled from August 25 to September 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

Wembanyama said he made the choice “on his own” after consulting with close friends and his medical team. He told the France coach and other players from the team about his decision over the weekend, L’Equipe reported yesterday.

Wembanyama said he was not pressured by the Spurs in any way, adding that the NBA franchise would have supported him whatever he decided.

San Antonio Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama. PHOTO: AP

If Wembanyama, the No 1 pick in the NBA draft, sticks with his decision, it will mean that he won’t be playing with France at a major tournament until next year’s Paris Olympics.

The Spurs chose the 19-year-old prodigy, who arrives with enormous expectations to become basketball’s newest sensation.

Wembanyama comes with far more height and hype than most No 1 picks. Listed at seven-foot-four, he dominated the French league in his final season, leading all players in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.

Wembanyama said he hesitated a lot and pointed to the need to preserve his body, which he already put to the test during a long season with his with Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 club, which reached the finals in the Pro A League.

He said taking part in the World Cup and then playing with the Spurs and following up the NBA season with the Olympics would have been too much to take.

“It would be unrealistic in terms of development and unwise in terms of health,” Wembanyama said. ”I hope people will understand. It’s frustrating for me, too. The French team is as central as ever. I want to win as many titles as possible with them. But I think it’s a necessary sacrifice.”