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Spotlight: Rudy Gobert

Standing 7’2” and possessing the third-highest recorded wingspan (7’8.5”) in NBA Draft Combine history, 20-year-old Rudy Gobert is a gift from the basketball gods and a force to be reckoned with. 

Born in Saint-Quentin, Aisne, France, the sport runs through his veins. Gobert’s father, Rudy Bourgarel, played basketball at Marist College from 1985-88. Himself a seven-footer, he would go on to play professionally in his native France for 10 years and was also a member of the country’s Olympic team in 1988.

Growing up in a country where soccer rules the sports landscape, though, Gobert did not immediately take to basketball, instead focusing his attention upon boxing, karate, and table tennis. By the time he reached age 11, though, his natural gifts were too great for him to ignore. He picked up a basketball and never looked back.

Just three years later, he was invited to join French Pro A club Cholet, with whom he’s developed into an All-Star and, like his father, an Olympian.

“More and more kids are playing,” Gobert told Sixers.com of basketball’s rising popularity in France. “There are more players coming to the [NBA] now than ever before.” 

Sharing an agent with Trail Blazer forward Nicolas Batum, Gobert has looked to the former Le Mans (France) standout for guidance, while preparing for his own leap to the NBA.

“He knows my game,” Gobert said of Batum. “He told me I’m going to be good, but that I need to get stronger and keep working.”

Like many international prospects, especially those who play center, Gobert is still a work in progress. At just 20 years of age, the young big man understands that he still has plenty room to develop. 

“I want to improve every part of my game,” he said. “It’s more physical [in the NBA]. More running, more strength... It will be a big step.”

The French seven-footer is projected to be the first international prospect selected in this month’s draft and despite the challenges that lie ahead, he has high hopes. At May’s NBA Draft Combine, he told reporters that his goal is to become the best French Player ever drafted, a tall order, considering the country’s recently strong draft history – Boris Diaw, Mickael Pietrus, and, of course, three-time NBA Champion Tony Parker.

In workouts and interviews between now and June 27th's draft, Gobert will look to prove that he has what it takes to be a difference-maker at the next level. That will likely come on the defensive end, where he has led the French Pro A league in blocks per minute in each of the last two seasons. 

“Today, I compare myself more to Tyson Chandler, a really good defensive player,” he said, when asked who he models his game after. “I want to be an offensive player, too. Play low post, midrange, take jump shots, and just be the best I can be.”

As was the case for Chandler, who was drafted straight out of high school by the Clippers in 2001, the first item on Gobert’s agenda will be to bulk up and develop an NBA-level core. As a result of his massive frame, he still has room for more mass, despite already weighing close to 240 pounds. In Chandler’s case, he entered the league as a 7’1”, 224-pound 19-year-old and spent his first four seasons as a reserve. It was not until he added 15 pounds of muscle and filled out his frame that he became the player he is today, an All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year.

With fantastic physical tools, a great basketball support system in his family and fellow players, and a great sense of where he can find his niche as a player, the future is bright for Gobert. 

“I’m just trying to focus on the moment,” he said. “It’s a good feeling, I’m getting excited.” 

For an in-depth look at this year's draft, including dynamic prospect profiles, frequently updated rankings, mock drafts from around the web, and more, check out the 2013 SIXERS.COM DRAFT CENTER