Sekou Doumbouya is one in a handful of international players invited to the NBA Draft tonight (7 p.m. EST, ESPN). While others such as R.J. Barrett or Rui Hachimura built their draft stock in the NCAA, Doumbouya is one of two players in attendance who played for a Euro League club.
Whereas Georgian-born Goga Bitadze played for Mega Bemax in Serbia, Doumbouya is a Guinean-born Frenchman who cut his teeth for Limoges CSP in France. When he declared for the NBA Draft this past April, ESPN referred to him as a French forward. As Jonathan Givony writes:
Doumbouya, who was born in Guinea in West Africa but moved to France as an infant, burst onto the NBA radar at the FIBA Under-18 European Championship in 2016, helping his team win gold and being named to the all-tournament team despite being 15 years old.
Let’s take a look at the background for the presumed first-round pick.
Sekou Doumbouya Upbringing in Guinea and France
Doumbouya was born in Conakry, Guinea on Dec. 23, 2000. As a 1-year old, his mother M’ Mah Marie moved him to France as his father stayed in Guinea due to military duty, according to SLAM.
“He knew that he needed to be the example,” says M’ Mah Marie, who moved to France with Sekou when he was one years old. “He always wanted to know how everyone was doing, to give his advice to his younger and older sisters.”
He lived with his three siblings and one cousin growing up. According to Basket Universe, the Doumbouya’s settled “in the middle of Val-de-Loire, in the town of Fleury-les-Aubrais.” The 6-foot-9, 231-pounder started with soccer before his height forced him into basketball.
The first part of his sports career began with football, with good personal results, but he was already high enough, so at 12 years old he tried with basketball: he liked and started playing in the club of his hometown, the CJF Les Aubrais. At the beginning, he positioned on the court as a pivot: he showed good hands and a fairly good hook, besides he already dunked during trainings.
He excelled on the club team INSEP Paris, and then signed his first professional contract with Poitiers. Despite the age gap between the then 14-year old and his older teammates, he posted impressive statistics per Bleacher Report.
Playing with and against professionals many years his senior, Doumbouya posted 6.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in nearly 17 minutes per game. That December, he helped lead the French national under-18 team to a European championship in Turkey. Against age-group competition, his numbers boomed, to the tune of 17.8 points and 7.0 rebounds a game.
At FIBA U18 European Championship 2016, he broke out with a 31-point against Serbia. At one point, he shot 61.3 percent from the field, adding 6.3 boards per game to go with 1.3 blocks.
This production has pushed him into many first-round draft projections. Our own Jonathan Adams has Doumbouya going No. 18 to the Spurs. In addition, Jeremy Woo of SI.com places the Frenchman in the lottery at No. 9 overall to the Wizards.
He’s thought to be far off from a maturity standpoint, and his skill set is still being fleshed out, but his athleticism, strength and shooting touch are tangible, and he showcased appealing defensive versatility over the course of the season in France.
At just 18, he could be a long-term development project for San Antonio, as head coach Gregg Popovich has thrived with those types of players in the past.