The details surrounding the second round pick the San Antonio Spurs made on Thursday night may have slipped through the cracks with all the fanfare following the homecoming of a once-in-a-lifetime player like Victor Wembanyama. However, Sidy Cissoko is a promising prospect in his own right, and he deserves a spotlight on his background in the beautiful game of basketball.
Cissoko is 19 years old and grew up in a southeastern commune in Paris called Saint-Maurice, France. He began playing basketball when he was just four, and at 13, he relocated to Spain to compete in the youth ranks of Baskonia. Cissoko has mentioned how tough it was to make this move at such a young age, but this transition explains how he became a fluent Spanish speaker. With San Antonio being the largest majority-Hispanic city in the United States, that trait could help him fit right into the culture of the 2-1-0 and draw a larger crowd at Spurs games.
The 6-foot-8 forward quickly rose through the ranks of the Spanish Basketball League. At the junior level, he played in the Liga Española de Baloncesto Aficionado, the fourth tier of the Spanish system. He averaged 17.4 points per game, suiting up as a reserve for Baskonia during the 2020-21 season. Baskonia promoted him to their first team the following season, where he was by far their youngest player at just 17 years old. Sidy would only see 28 seconds of action before being loaned to Iraurgi Saski Baloia. Though he gained valuable experience in the second division, he continued training with Baskonia's first team.
Cissoko continued to put himself on the map, earning a chance to represent the World Select team at the 2022 Nike Hoop Summit, where he did an interview with Draft Express. Although he mentioned he was most comfortable playing a European brand of basketball, he still knew he needed to be ready to play anywhere. Cidy also said he was focusing on improving his jump shot and ball handling skills, and that he saw himself in the NBA in five years “if everything is good."
Nearly one year later, Cissoko has accomplished that goal. Signing with the G League Ignite in July 2022 was the major step that gained him notoriety. He completed the 2022-23 season averaging 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, shooting 45% from the field and 30% from the three-point line. One of the most impressive things about Cissoko's game is his ability to charge at the basket while using his massive frame to boulder through opponents, often finishing with beautiful extension on a powerful slam.
The French native has possibly found a forever home in San Antonio after the Spurs drafted him with the 44th pick. And for someone with his unique background, it's a great place for him to start his NBA journey. This South Texas franchise has a knack for developing foreign-born players. The welcoming Hispanic community can offer him some familiarity as they embrace his arrival. Most importantly, he will cross paths with a familiar face in Wembanyama.