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Hawks' Risacher focusing on 'good stuff' instead of pressure as No. 1 overall pick

Zaccharie Risacher Hawks Zaccharie Risacher - The Canadian Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Zaccharie Risacher says he's not worried about the expectations that accompany being the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft — even if that also includes the daunting task of following fellow French star Victor Wembanyama.

“I feel like there is no pressure,” Risacher said Friday in his introductory news conference in Atlanta. “I just focus on the good stuff, you know, on the right stuff, which is playing here. I’m just excited to be with the Hawks right now, and I want to compete and win games. So that’s all.”

Wembanyama was last year's No. 1 overall pick by San Antonio and was a unanimous selection for NBA rookie of the year.

“If I had to give him one advice to him, it would be to just be yourself, don’t change for anything, don’t let the pressure change you, don’t let fame, money whatever,” Wembanyama said Thursday in Paris. “But I know Zacch, he’s got it.”

Risacher said he hasn't received pointers from Wembanyama. When asked if he learned anything from watching Wembanyama's rookie season, Risacher said his best lessons came from following Wembanyama's exploits as a professional in France. Risacher followed that path by playing for the same French club, JL Bourg, in 2023-24.

“That was great,” Risacher said. “You know, for myself, for a younger dude like me to see just him growing so fast and, like, I guess, dominated the France championship. That’s what I wanted to do when I came to Bourg.”

The 6-foot-9 Risacher (pronounced Ree-zah-shay) became only the second overall No. 1 pick in Atlanta history, following David Thompson, who in 1975 chose to play for the ABA's Denver Nuggets.

The pressure that goes with the No. 1 pick doesn't just fall on Risacher, who at 19 will be expected to play a significant role immediately. General manager Landry Fields also will be scrutinized after he helped to carve out minutes for the rookie by trading AJ Griffin to Houston on Thursday. The Hawks ended up acquiring rights to guard/forward Nikola Djurisic of Serbia as part of that deal.

Risacher, who impressed the Hawks with his catch-and-shoot skills and ability to defend multiple positions, could compete with De'Andre Hunter for minutes at small forward. The rookie joins guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray and forward Jalen Johnson as the foundation for a team that hasn't won a playoff series since advancing to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it’s hard to project out in terms of playing minutes and all that stuff,” Fields said after making Risacher the top pick on Wednesday night. “But of course we want him to be the absolute best player he can be. How we’re defining a franchise player, I’ll leave that to you. But there’s nobody that wants to see him succeed more than us, and we’re going to absolutely set him up to do that.”

Fields followed up on that vow with the trade of Griffin, a 2022 first-round pick.

“We're always going to look for ways to improve the team,” Fields said Friday.

Risacher's family, including his father, six-time French all-star Stephane Risacher, attended Friday's news conference. Stephane Risacher won a silver medal for France in the 2000 Summer Olympics and closely monitored his son's growth as a player.

Stephane Risacher said he was smart enough to retire from backyard competitions when his son was 15.

“That was totally unfair,” the elder Risacher said with a smile. “I knew that was it. I retired. I'm still undefeated.”