Members of the Thunder staff were spotted in Australia this week for the NBL preseason. The National Basketball League has produced four first round picks in the last three NBA drafts, three being lottery selections.
Two of these lottery picks, Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng, ended up in Oklahoma City. The Thunder returned to the NBA’s new recruiting grounds this season to take a peek at Ryan Rupert, a member of Dieng’s former team, the New Zealand Breakers.
Rupert is the NBL’s next tantalizing young prospect; the 18-year-old wing has already been slotted in the first round of NBA mock drafts. General Manager Sam Presti has a proclivity for drafting international players, in 2020, the Thunder used all three of its picks on international players. Looking even further back, Presti drafted the likes of Serge Ibaka, Alex Abrines and Steven Adams.
Considering Presti’s fondness for foreign players, it is easy to see where the allure lies in the 6-foot-7 French wing. In France, Rupert attended INSEP, where fellow Frenchmen Tony Parker and Ousmane Dieng played in their high school days.
The Breakers’ new star has an impressive basketball lineage as well. His father, Thierry Rupert, began playing professionally in France as a 16-year-old. Ryan’s sister, Iliana, currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA.
Rupert, who has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, averaged 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals last season at INSEP. While Rupert’s statistics aren’t eye-popping, his highlights sure are.
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The long wing frequently flies into passing lanes, using his speed and stifling long arms to rip the ball away from the opposition before it can reach their fingertips. Once Rupert has the ball in his hands, it’s a track meet to the rim.
Rupert’s physical gifts allow him to get to the basket and finish above the rim easily, making the 18-year-old a nightmare to matchup with in transition. The NBL prospect also had a good showing as a shooter in his first NBL action, making the young prospect even more enticing for Presti and the Thunder, who had the lowest 3-point percentage of any team in the league last season.
When considering OKC’s shooting woes, Presti’s love for players from overseas and Rupert’s youth, it is easy to see why the Thunder were keen on taking an early look at one of 2023’s top international prospects.
If Rupert continues to impress over the course of his first NBL season, you can be sure that Presti and OKC will be back in Australia before the 2023 NBA Draft.
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