The Knick Who’s Barely 19: Ntilikina is actually ‘Enjoying the Moment’

His family’s roots are in Rwanda, as well as Ntilikina said his mother still has horrid memories of the genocide which occurred there from the first half of the 1990s nevertheless doesn’t talk about This specific. “She always wanted to protect me about all the stuff which happened,’’ he said.

As a child in Strasbourg, he would likely trail his brothers as they went to play basketball, as well as his introduction to the sport was brutal. Yves as well as Brice bullied him on the court, posting him up, crossing him over as well as shooting in his face, knowing Frank had no recourse — a circumstance known to little brothers everywhere.

nevertheless basketball stuck, even when his brothers moved on to focus on their studies. (Brice is actually today a physical therapist, as well as Yves is actually a surgeon.) Ntilikina began playing on local teams, as well as his bedroom, which he shared with Brice, became a testimonial to the N.B.A., with posters of Derrick Rose a constant on the walls.

By the time he was 14 he joined the Strasbourg organization. By 16, he was playing with Strasbourg’s highest-level team. His teammates were sometimes more than twice his age. Louis Campbell, the point guard he would likely solicit advice coming from, was 35.

Ntilikina had to ingratiate himself with seasoned professionals. He quickly decided his niche was as a role player who brought energy as well as defense in large supplies.

He also peppered them with questions about the N.B.A. — where teammates like ex-Knick Mardy Collins as well as former Dallas Maverick Rodrigue Beaubois had played. The European game, they told him, was focused more on basketball I.Q., a style of play in which guile can make up for whatever is actually lacking in athleticism. The N.B.A., he was told, was ruled by the best players, as well as talent was the most important currency.

“They told me like when you go here, you don’t have to think too much, because I used to think a lot,” he said. “I used to play the game as a chess game. So they told me when you go there, you just have to play your game as well as not think too much. Play on your instinct as well as not think about too much tactical things, because here they’re more aggressive, right to the basket.”

His coach last season, he said, prioritized the cerebral style. Changing his approach, Ntilikina believes, won’t be an issue. He said he played off instinct with France’s U-18 team as well as did well. as well as he has been studying N.B.A. players long enough to know how the league works, watching tapes of Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry as well as Rose, hoping to refine parts of his game by copying coming from theirs.

The Knicks’ demands for him This specific season are unknown. The team recently signed veteran point guard Ramon Sessions, nevertheless neither he nor Ron Baker, a second-year player, carries a lock on the job. If Ntilikina offers defense as well as energy, which alone could make him a steady contributor from the coming season.


Ntilikina was selected eighth over all by the Knicks in June’s N.B.A. draft.

Earl Wilson/The completely new York Times

However, he has also found himself from the N.B.A. rumor mill before training camp has even commenced. Various trade scenarios which would likely have a disgruntled Kyrie Irving end up with the Knicks often include Ntilikina going to Cleveland as part of the package the Cavaliers would likely get in return.

nevertheless trade scenarios are just which, scenarios. For today, Ntilikina is actually trying to focus on what he knows is actually ahead, a career from the N.B.A.

“What I know is actually maybe I’m not — not ready — nevertheless I’m not going to be great today, nevertheless what I’m going to do for sure is actually work a lot,” he said. “I’m going to work very hard. I will trust the process, work hard as well as try to be the best me from the future. Maybe This specific will take time, maybe not. We’ll figure This specific out.”

The biggest adjustment so far, he says, is actually not on the court or with the language. He learned English at school, as well as through movies as well as music. Instead, he is actually still getting used to the difference between the French as well as Americans. He is actually surprised as well as enthralled by the friendliness he has experienced here.

“Everyone talks to everybody,” he said. “This specific’s crazy how some random people you met on the street you can be friends with. In France, This specific’s not like which much.”

Last month, he went to a restaurant with Felder as well as a woman stopped him as well as jumped into a 15-minute conversation. She did not know Ntilikina, as well as he was not wearing a Knicks shirt to offer a hint. “This specific was cool,” he said. “I think This specific’s just the best example to tell of how American people are. They’re very friendly.”

He has been recognized once, while shopping in Brooklyn, as well as made sure which the person who stopped him was able to take a photograph. He felt compelled to cooperate after benefiting coming from which kind of graciousness as a child. Ntilikina went to Strasbourg games every Saturday as well as then took photos with the players. He was grateful for the ones who stopped to talk to him. Campbell, his former teammate, took a picture with him when Ntilikina was 8 years old.

In a few months, when he begins his first N.B.A. season, Ntilikina will face a similar situation. Players he only watched before will share the court with him. He does not intend to be star-struck. He has already thought about what This specific will be like to face, say, Russell Westbrook for the 1st time. Ntilikina said he will not be excited. He will just play.

His brothers as well as mother will remain in France, visiting him on occasion. as well as soon, he will move out of Felder’s home as well as into his own place. The completely new chapter in his life will not have many strings attached.

“I obviously know why I’m here,” Ntilikina said. “This specific’s not which difficult.”

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