Victor Wembanyama has bad news for France.

The first draft pick told L’Equipe newspaper that he will not play with his national basketball team in this year’s World Cup to protect his still-developing body, and will instead take that time to continue preparing for his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs.

Wembanyama said it was a difficult decision to make, adding that it is irrevocable.

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Victor Wembanyama poses for a photo with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected first overall by the San Antonio Spurs during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

«I have decided to dedicate this summer to preparing my body for the many events that lie ahead in the years to come,» he said. «This meant skipping the World Cup. It was a difficult decision and required the advice of many people. But I sincerely believe that it is the best one for the French team and for me.»

The first pick in this year’s NBA draft had previously said he wanted to play in the tournament, which runs from August 25 to September 10 and will have France among the medal favorites. But both he and Spurs have suggested in recent days that his participation was no longer safe.

Wembanyama said he consulted with close friends and his medical team. He told the France coach and other players on the team about his decision over the weekend, L’Equipe reported Monday.

Wembanyama said that Spurs did not put pressure on him in any way.

«They know what is at stake,» he said. «But they would have supported me whatever my choice was. In the past, as soon as I could go to international competitions, I did. I have never been able to enjoy a summer with several months of development for my body. For this new stage of my life, «It’s essential. The Spurs staff is ready to make this summer profitable. We can’t afford to waste time.»

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Victor Wembanyama takes the floor

Metropolitan 92’s French center Victor Wembanyama attends before the third game of the French elite basketball final between Monaco and Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in Paris, June 15, 2023. (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

If Wembanyama stands by his decision, it will mean he won’t play France in a major tournament until next year’s Paris Olympics.

The Spurs selected the 19-year-old prodigy, who comes with high expectations to become basketball’s newest sensation.

Wembanyama comes with much more height and hype than most No. 1 picks. Standing at 7-foot-4, he dominated the French league in his final season, leading all players in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.

Wembanyama said he hesitated a lot and pointed to the need to preserve his body, which he has already put to the test during a long season with his club Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, which reached the French league final.

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Victor Wembanyama speaks to the NBA media

Victor Wembanyama speaks to the media during the 2023 NBA Draft week on June 21, 2023 in New York City, New New York. (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

He said that after that period, participating in the World Cup and then playing with the Spurs and following the NBA season with the Olympics would have been too much.

«My body is like a prototype,» he said. «I can’t base myself on people who look like me. So you need specific preparation, personalized anticipation. You can’t leave anything to chance. There is a real risk of overloading and, therefore, injury, what happens next «.

Wembanyama played in 48 games, including the playoffs and two exhibitions near Las Vegas last fall, in his recently completed season for Boulogne-Levallois, a team led by Vincent Collet, who also coaches the French national team. The French season for Wembanyama stretched from September until a league final appearance earlier this month.

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Victor Wembanyama dunks basketball

Boulogne-Levallois Victor Wembanyama, top, dunks during the Boulogne-Levallois Elite basketball match against Paris at the Palais de Sports Marcel Cerdan stadium in Levallois-Perret, on the outskirts of Paris, on May 16, 2023. Wembanyam is between the headliners among the top big men in the upcoming NBA draft. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

The NBA season is 82 games, not including preseason and possibly postseason contests. Had he played in the World Cup, Wembanyama would not have given his body much rest to prepare for the much more demanding rigors of an NBA schedule.

«It would be unrealistic in terms of development and unwise in terms of health,» Wembanyama said.

And it’s clear that, for this summer at least, he’s decided his focus will be entirely on Spurs.

«I’m trying to learn and be as objective as possible to become the best,» Wembanyama said over the weekend, when he visited his new home stadium for the first time. «But I’m also trying to be myself and not let anybody change the way I want to be, change the way I want to play. And I think this is really the way to become the best version of myself that I can be. like a player.»

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Victor Wembanyama smiles on the pitch

Victor Wembanyama of Metropolitans 92 reacts during the warm up before the Betclic Elite match between Metropolitans 92 and Strasbourg on April 8, 2023 in Levallois-Perret, France. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Wembanyama is expected to play in the Summer League with Spurs in the coming weeks; It’s not yet clear if he will participate in the California Classic that Sacramento will host beginning July 3, the larger NBA Summer League in Las Vegas that begins July 7, or both. World Cup practices with the French team would have started shortly after Summer League, with the FIBA ​​tournament ending about three weeks before NBA training camps open.

The French federation is expected to publish its preliminary list for the World Cup later this week. France lost the gold medal game at the most recent major international tournament, the Tokyo Olympics, to the United States in 2021, and won the bronze medal at the last World Cup in China in 2019.

«The French team is as central to my career as ever. I want to win as many titles as I can with them. But to do that this summer is a necessary sacrifice,» Wembanyama said.