“I was watching it on TV and now I’m the one playing,” savors Ousmane Dieng, the Thunder’s debutant.

Selected 11th overall in the 2022 NBA draft, young French winger Ousmane Dieng (Oklahoma) is making his mark in the big leagues. The former resident of the federative central signed his best performance on November 1 with 8 points, 4 rebounds 2 assists in 17 minutes. That bodes well for the 2.06m winger who had opted to go into exile in New Zealand in the NBL, the Australian and New Zealand league that is increasingly attracting promising youngsters ahead of its draft.

Ousmane, he’s doing pretty well with this good start to the season and this acclimatization in Oklahoma, right?

It’s going well. I got playing time on Tuesday. It went fine. We have a very young team. We are all here to learn. we are training There are some veterans like Mike Muscala and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who have been in the League for a while. It is good for learning.

Is it impressive to walk on NBA floors?

For sure. Every time I go into an NBA room, I tell myself that I was watching this on TV and now I’m the one playing. It’s always impressive.

After moving to New Zealand, is the distance less difficult to manage from a personal point of view?

Yes, it helps. I also left home when I was 13. From that point on it wasn’t too difficult.

The Thunder are off to a great start to the season, do you feel like silencing the people who predicted you to finish last?

The truth is, we don’t listen too much. We are here to play, to brag and to win games. We don’t listen to these critics. I hope we continue to win more games. We are a very young team. It reminds me a bit of INSEP.

Is the pace of matches and training very different from what you’ve experienced so far?

This is the rhythm of the matches. We play every other day, even every day. There are far fewer workouts. But this is where it is most important, is to be well focused when there is, especially to be mentally prepared. For the games, as soon as we have the opportunity, it’s to give everything and scratch minutes.

OKC is focused on developing young players, how does that materialize?

For example, if I want to shoot at the gym, I can call a trainer and he will be there in less than ten minutes. We have everything in place. Physiotherapists, doctors, bodybuilding. There really is everything to develop.

Luguentz Dort, your teammate, received praise from Luka Doncic that put him in the top three defensemen in the League, you too?

Sometimes in training he defends me on switches. He is a very, very good player, a very good defender and he speaks French.

No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren is out for the season, has his injury changed the team’s plans?

Obviously without Chet, it’s weird because we expected him to play. I don’t know if that necessarily changed the plans. He is there, he trains a lot in the gym. He is not removed from the group. It went fine.

Feeling confident heading into your rookie season?

I feel confident because I know the coach puts me on the pitch and trusts me. I just have to give it back when I get home by playing hard in defense and getting chances in attack.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the star of the team, is he impressive every day?

Is very strong. I think he’s one of the best players in the NBA right now. He finished as the Conference Player of the Week. He averaged 30 points at 50%. Although he is young, he is one of the oldest in this team. We ask for your advice.

Do people talk to you a lot about Victor Wembanyama?

People ask me if I played against him or if I know him. I played with him in the under-16s, we are friends. We saw what he did in Las Vegas against Ignite.

Playing alongside him in the France team with him, for example in the near future, is that an idea you are thinking about?

I hope. It is a goal and an honor to play for France A, especially with the Paris 2024 Olympics coming up. It’s in the corner of my head

Are you in contact with Boris Diaw, the general manager of the Blues?

Yes, I spoke to him but not necessarily in relation to this. I talk to Boris sometimes.

Interview by Arnaud Valadon

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