France's Risacher goes to Hawks with top pick in NBA Draft

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, left, poses with France's Zaccharie Risacher, right, after Risacher was selected by the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Atlanta Hawks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Atlanta Hawks</a> with the first overall pick in the first round of the NBA Draft (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

France's Zaccharie Risacher was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the first overall pick in Wednesday's opening round of the NBA Draft.

The 19-year-old forward, who stands 6-foot-9 (2.06m), was the second Frenchman in a row to be chosen number one after Victor Wembanyama was taken by the San Antonio Spurs with the top pick last year.

"It's a blessing, you know," Risacher said. "So exciting. There are a lot of feelings and emotions right now. I don't know what to say but it's definitely special.

"For three years, what I have been through, and my family is here -- I'm so happy. This is amazing."

French players were chosen with three of the top six picks overall, setting an NBA record for the most international players taken in the top 10.

Risacher helped spark JL Bourg to this year's EuroCup final, which was won by Paris Basketball.

He became the second-youngest player to be named the EuroCup Rising Star and last month was named the French league's 2023-24 Best Young Player after averaging 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 22 minutes a game for JL Bourg.

French 19-year-old 7-foot (2.13m) center Alexandre Sarr was selected second overall by the Washington Wizards.

Sarr played last season for the Perth Wildcats of Australia's National Basketball League.

After two seasons with Real Madrid's youth team and two US youth seasons, he spent the 2023-24 campaign with Perth, averaging 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 17 minutes a game.

"Everywhere I played it just built me for this moment," Sarr said. "It's so special."

Sarr's 25-year-old brother Olivier is a center with the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.

"He shared a lot with me. Everything I've learned is through him," Sarr said. "He gave me all his knowledge. It's truly special to have someone like him in my corner."

It marks only the third time in NBA history that the top two picks in the draft have not had US college experience.

The sky is the limit for talented French rookies after "Wemby" went on to be named the NBA Rookie of the Year and led the league in blocked shots last season.

The Hawks finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season at 36-46 and lost to Chicago in a play-in game.

Houston took University of Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard third. Sheppard, who turned 20 on Monday, averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game and led US college players with 52.1% shooting from 3-point range.

- Castle joins 'Wemby' -

With the fourth pick, San Antonio selected 19-year-old guard Stephon Castle of US national college champion Connecticut. He had 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game.

"To have a teammate like (Wembanyama) next to you, I feel like it opens up the floor so much for you to go and expand your game," Castle said. "I can't wait to get out there."

Detroit took G-League Ignite forward Ron Holland II fifth while Charlotte took French forward Tidjane Salaun sixth overall.

The 18-year-old from Paris, who played for France's Cholet Basket last season, averaged 9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals a game.

"It's crazy," Salaun said. "That's amazing. To be here, it's too much for me."

Canada's Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 (2.24m) center and two-time US college player of the year, went ninth to Memphis while Oklahoma City took Serbian guard Nikola Topic at 12th.

Bronny James, the son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, was expected to be selected in the second round, which will be conducted on Thursday.

James, a 19-year-old guard for Southern California, averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 25 games last season.

His father, a 39-year-old four-time NBA champion, has said he wants to play alongside Bronny next season.

The Lakers took guard Dalton Knecht from Tennessee with the 17th pick, their only selection in round one.