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French Phenom Rayan Rupert the Latest NBL Next Star

Another one of the world's top teenage basketball prospects is heading to the NBL, with French forward Rayan Rupert the latest addition to the Next Stars program.

The 18-year-old Rupert who is a projected first-round pick in ESPN's 2023 NBA mock draft will join the New Zealand Breakers following in the footsteps of compatriot Ousmane Dieng.

Like Dieng, Rupert is also a graduate of the INSEP Academy in France, which also trained Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Ronny Turiaf.

Basketball is in Rupert's blood with his late father, Thierry, a EuroLeague player who also captained the French national team. His sister Iliana was the 12th overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2021 WNBA draft.  

The teenager is an imposing presence on the court at 2.04m or 6'7" and a staggering 2.22m or 7'3" wingspan, with comparisons to the Phoenix Suns Mikal Bridges.

Highly respected ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski says Rupert has defensive versatility, an ability to get into passing lanes, and intensity on defence.

Rupert is looking to become the latest Next Star to use the NBL to make it to the NBA, following in the footsteps of not only Dieng who expects to hear his name called in the 2022 NBA Draft, but the likes of LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey, RJ Hampton, Didi Louzada.

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger welcomed Rupert into the NBL fold.

“Rayan is set to add to the extremely exciting and impactful legacy of the Next Stars program next season and we can’t wait to see what he brings to the NBL,”

“Rupert has an incredibly high ceiling and we know a full season in the NBL will further develop his dynamic and athletic abilities and playmaking capabilities, so he will be best prepared for the NBA Draft.

“We can’t wait for Rayan to join us and look forward to putting him out in front of our growing legion of global fans.” 

Breakers owner Matt Walsh is very excited to welcome Rupert to the Auckland-based club.

"Rayan is an extremely hard worker, and we can't wait to see him in a Breakers' uniform," said Walsh.

"He is one of the top young talents in the world, and we are excited for him to continue the Next Stars success that we have had following an amazing season from Ousmane Dieng."

From Dieng's perspective, his game transformed following his season with the Breakers.

"It was a really great experience and a great opportunity for an 18-year-old like me, and they really wanted to develop me," he said.

"I think last season made me tougher, better, and tougher in every aspect, on and off the floor.  It is a really good club."

Heading to the 2022 Draft, Dieng is currently ranked 12 while teammate Hugo Besson is at 39 in ESPN's latest mock projection, although some outlets have him as high as 23.

Where exactly they land and which NBA teams pick them up will be revealed at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on June 24.

In the meantime, Rupert's journey to the NBA begins in mid-August when he arrives in Auckland.

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