Hawks make Zaccharie Risacher second straight Frenchman taken No. 1 in NBA draft


NEW YORK (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks took France's Zaccharie Risacher with the No. 1 pick on Wednesday night and France landed three players in the top six in a historic night for the country.

“That’s amazing," Risacher said. “We try to represent our country and so, glad to be a part of it. You know there is more players coming in.”

Risacher doesn't come with the enormous height or hype of Victor Wembanyama, the towering center who went to San Antonio last year and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.

But the Hawks saw him as the best choice in what has been viewed as a draft absent of elite talent.

The 19-year-old forward was the winner of the best young player award in the French League last season and beat out fellow Frenchman Alex Sarr in the race to be the top pick.

When he did, it made NBA draft history. This is the first time that the draft has gone consecutive years without the No. 1 pick being someone who played at an American college.

“Shows the amount of talent we have in France," Sarr said. “Really excited for Zach. I think our national team is going to be really good.”

Sarr went second to the Washington Wizards after playing last year with Perth in Australia's National Basketball League.

The Hawks had only a 3% chance of winning the lottery to earn the No. 1 pick, and there was no obvious choice waiting once they did. Most mock drafts were split between Risacher and Sarr, and Atlanta also worked out UConn center Donovan Clingan.

Houston made Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard the No. 3 pick. A one-and-done college player had topped the draft for 13 straight years from 2010-22 before Wembanyama ended that streak.

Stephon Castle of the two-time reigning national champion Huskies made it two straight college freshmen when San Antonio took him at No. 4, the Spurs' first of two picks in the top 10. They also held the No. 8 selection.

The Detroit Pistons took Ron Holland of the G League Ignite with the fifth pick before the Hornets took Tidjane Salaun, who played last year for Cholet Basket in France.

“I think the basketball in France is improved that’s why we are here in this draft," Saluan said.

Clingan, who won titles in both seasons in Storrs, finally went to Portland at No. 7.

The draft moved to a two-night format this year, with the first round being held as usual at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the second round to be held Thursday at ESPN’s Seaport District studios.

The green room was filled with a number of unfamiliar faces who will head to the NBA from other leagues or other countries. A player who would have been one of the most recognizable was not in the arena: Zach Edey, the two-time AP Player of the Year from Purdue, was taken at No. 9 by Memphis.