Rayan Rupert, No. 17 overall prospect, to enter NBA draft

Jonathan GivonyESPN3 Minute Read

French wing Rayan Rupert, a potential lottery pick, told ESPN he has submitted paperwork to the NBA office to make himself eligible for the 2023 draft.

“My dream has always been to play in the NBA,” Rupert said Wednesday. “I’m ready to take the next step in my career.”

Rupert, the No. 17 overall prospect in ESPN’s draft projections, carved out a starting role for a New Zealand Breakers squad that lost in the finals of the Australian NBL, despite playing the entire season as an 18-year old.

Rupert started the season off strong, going 10-for-16 from 3-point range in the NBL Blitz preseason tournament in September, but suffered a setback when he broke the wrist of his shooting hand in November, requiring surgery and causing him to miss two months of his team’s five-month season.

“I had a lot of ups and downs this season, especially with my injury,” he said. “It was a good moment to work on my left hand and on my body. It was a good season for us, we went to the Finals and played in front of 20,000 people in Sydney. I’m grateful for this experience.”

Rupert had some of his best games during his team’s playoff run, as his defensive versatility and ability to contribute to winning separated him from lottery picks coming from the Australian NBL the past three years in LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng, who played starring roles on teams that ultimately missed the playoffs.

“The NBL is a good league for young players,” Rupert said. “They play fast like in the NBA. The Breakers helped me become a better player and person, competing against pros every day. It was a good decision for me to play in the NBL. I had to earn my minutes, focus on my defense, learn how to play off the ball, become a smarter player and use my IQ to impact the game.”

Rupert, who turns 19 on May 31, is one of the youngest players currently projected to be drafted. He has elite dimensions for a wing prospect, standing 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that gives him significant potential with his strong feel for the game, mature approach and unselfish style of play, which could help him hear his name called in the lottery on draft night ultimately.

“I can bring now a lot of things to an NBA team,” he said. “I can change the game with my defense.”

Rupert comes from a strong background, as the son of former French national team captain and Euroleague forward Thierry Rupert. His sister, Eliana Rupert, a 6-foot-4 center who was the No. 12 pick in the 2021 WNBA draft coming straight out of high school in France, won the WNBA championship as a rookie last season with the Las Vegas Aces.

“Basketball is everything for my family,” he said. “My father, mother and sister all played. I’m happy to represent the Rupert name at the highest levels. For me, family is everything.”

Rupert says he’s currently in Dallas working out in preparation for individual team workouts, watching NBA games nightly while working on his frame and the consistency of his 3-point shooting.

“I’m working with Tim Martin in Dallas,” Rupert said. “I want to show teams my defense and that I’m an underrated player offensively. I can attack the rim, play with the ball. I have a good mid-range game. I want to show all my offensive talent.

“I’m watching a lot of Nets games. My favorite player is Mikal Bridges. He plays with great energy and can do everything on the court. He used to be a ‘3-and-D player’ like me, but now he is a franchise player. I love everything about him.”

The NBA draft combine will be held May 15-21 in Chicago, and the draft will be June 22 in Brooklyn.