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Next Big Thing: Why is Zaccharie Risacher projected as the #1 pick in the NBA draft?

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BREST (France) – As Zaccharie Risacher prepares to make his debut for the French senior national team at the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers, it’s clear that it’s an important moment for him.

In a recent interview with French media, the 18-year-old Risacher described his call-up to France’s FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers roster in as “a dream come true.”

“It was one of my main goals for the season,” Risacher added.

Looking at his journey over the past 12 months, however, this moment seems to be even bigger than a dream or a goal; it’s a moment where it all comes full circle.

“PLAYING FOR LES BLEUS IS A DREAM COME TRUE.” – Zaccharie Risacher

 

Early in the 2024 NBA Draft cycle, Risacher was considered as one of the top international prospects on the board, thanks to a number of stand-out performances for both ASVEL and France in different youth competitions across Europe.

The expectation was that Risacher would continue to raise his profile during the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2023, but that proved not to be the case. He struggled with consistency through the competition, highlighted by a forgettable 0-point, 5-turnover performance in a Final loss against Spain.

Risacher, however, bounced back in a big way in this 2023-24 season.

After moving from ASVEL to JL Bourg, he established himself as one of the most productive and efficient young players in Europe, being seen by many outlets as a potential first overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

“He’s been one of the best shooters in Europe this season,” says Antonio Dias, expert on international youth basketball and Head Scout at Eurohoops, and it’s hard not to agree with him when looking at both the statsheet and the film.

Risacher had always been a gifted shooter off-the-catch who showed consistent, repeatable mechanics. Simply put, he shoots an easy ball. However, in this 2023-24 campaign the French wing has taken his shooting ability to the next level, as he has converted 44.6 percent of his 139 three-point attempts through the season.

“HE’S ALREADY A PLUG AND PLAY PROSPECT. HE DOESN’T NEED THE BALL TO BE EFFECTIVE.”– Antonio Dias, Head Scout at EuroHoops

The tape also shows an evolution in this area of Risacher’s game, he’s not just extremely efficient in catch-and-shoot situations, but he also shows the ability to convert shots that require a higher level of versatility, whether that is in quick relocations in the perimeter, coming off screens in off-ball actions or pulling up from the mid-range.

Risacher’s impact also extends to the other side of the floor. “He can guard the perimeter, with great lateral mobility that allows him to stay in front of wings and some guards, while being a long defender to have on the help side and at the nail,” Dias raves.

Risacher really knows how to utilize his tools to create defensive events on all levels of the floor, his combination of quickness, coordination and fluidity for his size allows him to contest jumpshots and cover drives against wings and some guards on the perimeter. He’s also able to make an impact around the basket, utilizing his size and length to contest shots and collect defensive rebounds.

The physical tools to thrive as a defender are there, and the mental aspects are not far behind. His levels of awareness, anticipation and motor when he’s playing as an off-ball defender are outstanding for his age, being able to break up plays all over the floor, whether that is acting as a help defender at the rim or playing the passing lanes in the perimeter.

Being impactful as a versatile defender and floor-spacer make Risacher an enticing prospect from a fit standpoint, as his skillset is one that is coveted by nearly every team in the world. “He’s already a plug and play prospect. He doesn’t need the ball to be effective,” says Dias, and it’s this suitability to fit in multiple contexts that might have been one of the key reasons why he became such an important piece for JL Bourg in his first season with the team. “It was him who earned his role and his place,” said JL Bourg Head Coach Frederic Fauthoux in a recent interview with BeBasket. “We didn’t build the team for him, but a team with him.”

While Risacher is thriving as an off-ball wing, that doesn’t mean that he’s not contributing offensively with the ball in his hands. While he does lack a level of elite shiftiness and creativity with the ball in his hands, which at times can get him in trouble if he’s dribbling through a crowded space, his handle is functional enough to get to his spots inside the arc for pull-up jumpers and to attack open lanes to the rim in transition or when the opposing defense is scrambling in the half-court

Giovanni Marriette, editor in chief for the website TrashTalk, is based in Bourg-en-Bresse and is witnessing the phenomenon from up close.

“Risacher is currently achieving what Victor Wembanyama had also achieved: progressing and seeing his stock skyrocket while shining a light on his club and league,” he said.

 

 

“In Bourg-en-Bresse this year, the excitement is unprecedented, even as the club is starting to gain a decent reputation in France. The club’s shop has never been doing better, and countless young Risacher fans can be seen roaming the stands of Ekinox, wearing the number 10 on their backs.

“Even though he will have spent only 10 months at JL in the end, his imprint is likely to linger in the memories of Bresse for a very, very long time.”

 

Risacher was already a highly touted prospect coming into the 2023-24 season, but his improvement in key areas of the game is what propelled his draft stock back to the top of draft boards. “He has improved in many aspects of the game. He found consistency in his shooting. He’s more aggressive towards the basket. Defensively he is excellent,” said Fauthoux in an interview for SKWEEK.

It’s easy to see why NBA teams are enticed by Risacher’s profile, as he can provide an impact from day one, but has also shown the potential to develop into an on-ball threat in time. “You have a 3 and D prospect from the get go, with clear potential to improve his on-ball actions. He’ll be ready to play for a rebuilding team right away,” says Dias and he adds, “I wouldn’t expect less than a great off-ball scorer with some creation skills and one of the most impressive wing defenders in the NBA by year five.”

The future is bright for Risacher not just on the other side of the Atlantic, but also when it comes to what’s next for him and Les Bleus. “With a long list of tall, long wings coming out of France, their national team prepares to become one of the best defensive national teams of all time,” says Dias, and once again, like in nearly every step of his young career, it’s a context in which Risacher fits perfectly.

In France, the games of the French national team against Croatia on February 23 and against Bosnia and Herzegovina on February 26 will be broadcast exclusively on DAZN as part of its freemium offering this month.

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