During a French League semifinal between Strasbourg and Lyon-Villeurbonne progressing this month, Olivier Mazet, a French representative for Frank Ntilikina, organised for a postgame dinner.
He invited his client, Ntilikina, of Strasbourg; Charles Kahudi, who plays for Lyon; and Ntilikina’s mother, Jacqueline.
Lyon led 2-0 in a best-of-five series, and Mazet was relieved. He shortly would be on an craft to New York with Ntilikina and New York-based representative Rich Felder to start NBA breeze workouts.
Nevertheless, Ntilikina — a 18-year-old, 6-foot-5 indicate ensure a Knicks are deliberation with their No. 8 collect — was miserable and didn’t wish to do cooking with an competition he still was perplexing to beat.
“No, we’re going to win this series,” Ntilikina told Mazet. “We’re not going to New York yet. We’re not losing.”
Playing his season’s best ball, some-more noisy on offense and personification his customarily stellar defense, Ntilikina led Strasbourg to 3 true victories to allege to a final opposite Chalon, that flog Strasbourg 71-70 on a buzzer-beater Saturday to take a 2-1 array lead.
Ntilikina’s dual basketball worlds have collided — possibly fortuitously or frustratingly, depending on a viewpoint.
Mazet unabashedly certified after Strasbourg fell behind 1-0 in a French finals he was rooting for a sweep.
“Frank is such a competitor, mature for his age,” Mazet said. “He wants to win this before he leaves for a NBA, even nonetheless he’s not means to suffer a pre-draft process. He’s worked so tough — 10 years — to make that dream happen, accommodate a franchises and speak to a people, uncover them what he can do. Unfortunately, he’s not means to do that [yet]. He’d rather win.”
In an speak progressing this week, Ntilikina pronounced it has been“difficult” focusing with a breeze Thursday though pronounced feels he is succeeding.
“He wears it well, even if it is overwhelming,” pronounced Strasbourg teammate Romeo Travis, a energy brazen from Ohio. “He has a ease appearance about him.”
“You don’t clarity he’s distracted, though we suppose he is,” pronounced Strasbourg ensure A.J. Slaughter, who starred during Western Kentucky. “We hear his representative wants to leave for a workouts, and [Ntilikina] wants stay and win a championship. It’s a stressful situation. He wants to do what’s best for a team. we can’t suppose what he’s going through.”
Erving Walker, who hails from Bed Stuy and played for Christ The King, added: “He’s got a lot of vigour on him. He doesn’t speak about it a lot, though he wants to win a championship unequivocally bad. Actions are louder than words, and all his actions are he’s 100 percent in this.”
But Ntilikina is not indignant during Mazet for rooting opposite a club.
“He understands,” Mazet said.
It has been a singular tour to this weird culmination. Ntilikina’s mother, Jacqueline Mukarugema, transient a atrocities of war-torn Rwanda with her dual sons for Belgium, where she afterwards had a third child she named Frank. The family changed to Strasbourg when he incited 3.
“It’s a unequivocally stable, prepared family,” Mazet said.
Jacqueline, who works as a helper and sanatorium administrator, lifted a 3 sons by herself. The oldest, Yves, 30, is a behind surgeon. Brice, 26, is a earthy therapist.
“His mom was unequivocally young, and Frank saw a sacrifices and a work,” Mazet said. “She was a clever influence, and he schooled a lot from all of them.”
His American teammates contend Ntilikina’s work ethic oozes. Walker calls him “NBA Frank” since that is a lot of what he talks about.
“It seems he’s always in a gym — before practice, after use — like he doesn’t have another life,” Walker said.
Slaughter says Ntilikina has warranted a “gym rat’’ tag.
“He stays in a gym after practice, though coaches, operative on ballhandling and a burst shot,” Slaughter said. “And when we travel into a gym and hear a round bouncing, we know it’s Frank.”
Ntilikina leans on his 3 American friends and never stops quizzing them about a U.S. His English is, as Travis says, “perfect,” honed from listening to years of swat song (Future and Drake are his tip two) and examination American cinema and TV shows.
Slaughter has Ntilikina over to his pad to play video games — FIFA is his favorite.
“He’s always picking my brain,” Slaughter said. “He’s Americanized. Listens to a same music, same TV shows, likes American food — adult to date on all of American culture.”
“He’s into American culture, though he knows he’s French,” Travis said. “That’s what’s cool. He listens to a hip-hop, though he doesn’t try to be over-hip-hop-ish.’’
Ntilikina’s got a physique — 6-5 with a 7-foot wingspan and still flourishing — a defense, basketball IQ and unstinting diversion that have a Knicks so intrigued.
The Post reported Knicks ubiquitous manager Steve Mills, scouting executive Kristian Petesic and recently hired director Makhtar N’diaye flew to France in Apr to watch Ntilikina play. In fact, N’diaye, according to a source, spent scarcely a month in France throwing Ntilikina games in Apr and early May.
The Post has schooled Jackson’s many successful advisor, Clarence Gaines Jr., personally held a Ntilikina diversion in France during another point. In addition, their Barcelona-based European director Kevin Wilson held his share.
Granted, a Mavericks were on Ntilikina’s route initial final season, when he barley played for Strasbourg. According to a source, a Mavericks were sloping off by former Mavericks guard, Frenchmen Rodrique Beaubois, who played for Strasbourg final season.
Mavericks owners Mark Cuban flew to Venice final weekend to accommodate Ntilikina.
“He’s famous in France, too,” Ntilikina said. “It was interesting.”
The Mavericks name ninth and expected would take Ntilikina if a Knicks pass.
— Olivier MAZET (@OlivierMAZET) June 10, 2017
Though N.C. State’s Dennis Smith and Kentucky’s Malik Monk have their supporters in a organization, due to Ntilikina’s medium numbers, a opinion of Jackson/Gaines might be all that matters. Jackson likes his guards large and might be emboldened by success of his past European breeze picks, including Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez.
Chris Brickley, who left a Knicks in Apr after a army as developmental coach, lerned Ntilikina final summer when he visited New York. Brickley would have lerned him in a weeks heading into a breeze had Ntilikina’s deteriorate finished earlier.
“Put basketball aside, he is a consume and intensely fervent to improve,” Brickley settled in an email. “He can urge his position full-court and has a high basketball IQ. He can unequivocally hoop a round and has a ability to fire a round off a dribble. His catch-and-shoot 3 is most improved than people give him credit for. One of his biggest strengths is his flitting ability. He has good justice vision.”
However, a numbers don’t clear a plaudits — even factoring in Ntilikina confronting players 5 to 12 years his elder. (In a winter’s 18-and-under European championships, Ntilikina won MVP by averaging 22 points and 6.7 assists.)
In a French League unchanging season, a numbers were wanting a 5.2 points, 1.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 18 minutes. His coaches have begged him, in certain instances, to be some-more noisy and towering him to starter in January.
“I have schooled to be some-more noisy — before we wasn’t noisy enough,” Ntilikina told The Post. “I know it’s removing better. we have to do it a lot more. I’m operative on it. I’m assured about it.”
Travis says Strasbourg manager Vincent Collet, also a French National coach, has a complement that prevents “eye-popping numbers.’’
“But his teams always win,” Travis said. “He wants balance.”
After Game 1 of a French finals, in that Ntilikina laid an egg (two points, one assist), Slaughter took Ntilikina aside in a locker room.
“I told him we didn’t consider he was noisy adequate in a pick-and-rolls, holding shots in a line — he was picking adult his dribble,” Slaughter said. “To win Game 2 , we told him he needs to pull people and flog it out. He’s immature and doesn’t wish to make a mistake to cost a group a game. He’s got to quarrel by his mistakes.”
Ntilikina was a opposite actor in Thursday’s Game 2 win — 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 23 minutes) — provision his timber defense.
“His invulnerability goes though saying,” Walker said. “It’s exquisite — prolonged arms, athletic. Not many people wish do it. He wants to do it.”
And Ntilikina shows care his possess way, notwithstanding being “a loose guy,” pronounced Travis, who is 32.
“He’s 18 and knows it’s tough for people to listen to him,” Travis said. “So he’ll come adult to me and say, ‘Get everybody in a crowd and have a meeting.’ He’ll have me do it. That’s a personality meaningful his capabilities.”
Ntilikina and his agents will fly to New York on Tuesday after Monday’s Game 4 to attend Thursday’s draft. Whether he pulls an all-nighter and flies behind for a Game 5 on Friday is undetermined. It is a maze though not a bad one and acknowledges he is holding a opposite path.
His American friends have taken a stance: “C’est la vie.”
“He’s got all a collection to be a good player,” Travis said. “He’ll be improved in basketball than I’ll ever be so we speak to him about life. What to demeanour out for — a veteran snakes out there, veteran leeches, to be clever of those people. He’s a unequivocally infallible and good guy, so he’s got to be careful.”