One Met can hide another: while Victor Wembanyama has been the favorite for the next NBA Draft and the leader of the Metropolitans 92 for several months, Bilal Coulibaly has attracted American attention in just a few dazzling weeks at Boulogne-Levallois.
Coulibaly (6'6 foot), who is managed by the same agency as "Wemby", is currently projected at around number 15 tonight in Brooklyn.
This in no way defines the future of his career, but it does testify to an increasingly high rating, even though he wasn't even training with the first team at the beginning of the season.
A month before his professional debut on September 23rd, he was voted MVP of a friendly match, played in Nanterre in front of the ESPN cameras, between some of France's top prospects and an American squad featuring LeBron's son Bronny James and some of the most promising American high-school students.
Boulogne-Levallois owes part of its qualification for the French championship final against Monaco a few days ago to him. In the semi-finals against reigning champions Villeurbanne, the young winger put in an already high-flying Game 2 at Bercy (15 pts and 5 rebounds), breaking his record for points (16) in Game 4, topped off by four assists and two steals.
These statistics don't tell the whole story about the overall impression left by this child of the Hauts-de-Seine region (he was born in Saint-Cloud and played at youth level with Courbevoie then Levallois), and his athletic qualities which enable him to shine on both sides of the court.
"Defensively, he shut down Jonah Mathews," Mets 92 captain Lahou Konaté appreciated after the match, when Wembanyama launched (in English) on Twitter: "Now everyone knows he deserves to be in the top 10 (of the draft). But not enough to realize he deserves to be in the top 5.
"He's had a pretty incredible progression mentally and physically, the kid works hard and has a good head on his shoulders," stresses Mets captain Lahou Konaté, who quickly realized "we had a nugget on our hands."
Boulogne-Levallois coach Vincent Collet "doesn't look at him with the eyes of Chimène", but almost: he's "impressed" by the performance curve of the youthful, lanky winger, who at the start of the season he didn't expect to play around 30 minutes in three-quarters of the championship semi-final matches against the experienced Villeurbannais.
"I had targeted Noël for his integration, and injuries accelerated the process", explained the coach, praising Coulibaly's progress "from week to week, particularly in terms of risk-taking".
However, Collet would have liked him to stay at Boulogne-Levallois for another year, "so that he can become a team leader, as Victor is doing with us this year".
"But that's not how it works," agrees the French coach.