Alperen Sengun says Victor Wembanyama 'not that strong yet' after scoring career-high 45 points on rookie



Victor Wembanyama has been the talk of the NBA lately, and for good reason, considering his unbelievable play on both sides of the ball. He recently became the first player to record a 5×5 game since 2019, and LeBron James has called him “special.” Someday, perhaps sooner rather than later, he may be the best player in the league. 

Against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, we saw more moments of brilliance from the young Frenchman. We also got a reminder, courtesy of Rockets big man Alperen Sengun, that Wembanyama is still a 20-year-old rookie who has played just 56 games in the league and has room to improve. 

Sengun went off on in the Rockets’ 114-101 win, finishing with a career-high 45 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and five steals. It was the most points scored in a single game by a Turkish player in league history, according to the NBA.

“I mean, yeah, of course [I had extra motivation to play Wembanyama],” said the 21-year-old Sengun, who broke into the league four years ago. “I didn’t play that well against him last game I can say. And I didn’t have many double teams, they just left me one-on-one with Wemby. I just did what I do.”

It was Sengun’s other quote, though, that left more of an impression. 

“He’s so tall but he’s not that strong yet,” Sengun said. “I was going at his chest and putting him under the rim.”

Down the stretch, Sengun scored a number of baskets by out-muscling Wembanyama in the paint. 

With about five minutes to play, Sengun delivered perhaps his most impressive play of the night. After fooling Wembanyama with a shoulder fake, he drove baseline only to find himself stuck under the basket. In order to create space, he backed into the rookie and pushed him out far enough that he could spin back the other way for a big slam. 

Later, in a more obvious use of physicality, Sengun caught the ball on the 3-point line, drove to the basket, and moved Wembanyama back from the dotted circle to the restricted area by putting a shoulder into his chest. With Wembanyama off balance, Sengun was able to spin around for a jump hook. 

You’ll notice, however, that even though Sengun gets the better of Wembanyama initially, neither bucket is easy due to the rookie’s length and recovery ability. In fact, as well as Sengun played, Wembanyama still blocked him five times. 

Here’s an example where Sengun uses his body to pin Wembanyama under the basket and gets rejected anyway. 

Wembanyama’s high center of gravity and lanky frame suggests he might always have an issue with bulkier centers who throw their weight around. But as he gets stronger and becomes even more adept at using his incredible length and timing, that weakness will diminish. 

Sengun’s big night reminded us that Wembanyama is still a rookie, but opposing big men better use their physical advantage while they still can. 





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