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San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan is ready for his rookie season

Unfazed. Passionate. Bold. Jeremy Sochan looks ready-made for the NBA.

The latest player from the UK to try to make waves on the American hardwood rather than a mere drop in the ocean has talked the talk, but can he walk the walk?

Ryan Richards was the last player from England to be chosen in the draft when he was taken with the 49th pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. Unfortunately, the Kent-born forward didn’t sign with the club until 2016, and was waived shortly thereafter.

Sochan was picked ninth overall by the Spurs in June’s draft, and there’s optimism that this 6-foot-9, 19-year-old forward could succeed where Richards failed.

‘I’m very excited. I think I’ll bring a lot of versatility to the team, energy and fight and passion. I’m really excited, ‘he said at his unveiling of him.

‘I just want to tell you guys that I’m going to bring energy every day. I’m going to really compete and bring a lot to the table. I can’t wait. We’re going to have fun.

Sochan was picked at No 9 by the Spurs

San Antonio Spurs NBA draft pick Jeremy Sochan looks ready to make his mark in new season

The 6ft 9in power forward represents Poland and impressed as a Baylor freshman

The 6ft 9in power forward represents Poland and impressed as a Baylor freshman

‘I think I’m going to fit really well. It’s a really young squad. We have a lot of energy. I feel like they were one of the best teams in assists. I really feel like I really fit with that. I feel like it’s going to be good.’

Sochan singles out his ability to be adaptable and he showcased both his offensive and defensive qualities as a Baylor freshman.

During his time in Waco, the teenager averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Such returns saw him earn Sixth Man of the Year honors as well as a place on the Big 12 All-Freshman team.

Born in Oklahoma City, Sochan’s love for the sport stems from his mom Aneta – who moved to the States for education but also played professional basketball herself.

Sochan at the Barclays Center on draft night with mom Aneta and stepdad Wiktor Lipiecki

Sochan at the Barclays Center on draft night with mom Aneta and stepdad Wiktor Lipiecki

‘I always remember I used to follow my mom, just being on the court. You know just playing, trying to shoot, trying to score a basket,’ he told BBC Sports.

Sochan’s mom met his father Ryan – also a basketball player – in America and the family moved to the UK when Sochan was two.

He grew up with Aneta and stepdad Wiktor Lipiecki in Milton Keynes, a town 50 miles northwest of London, until the age of 15. Later he played amateur ball for the country’s MK Trojans as well as Solent Kestrels and Itchen College on the UK’s south coast .

Sochan followed in his mother’s footsteps by going to play basketball in the US, enrolling at a high school in Indiana, and again by representing her home country of Poland at the FIBA ​​Under-16 European Championships.

Before impressing at Baylor, he played at a German academy as well.

Sochan took that in his stride and appears undaunted by the Spurs challenge.

Sochan poses alongside France and Paris Saint-German soccer star Kylian Mbappe

Sochan poses alongside France and Paris Saint-German soccer star Kylian Mbappe

‘I feel like they need someone my size, with my versatility. I feel like I can learn from them a lot, just become a sponge and work really hard with the team and I know they’re very competitive and they want to get better every day so I feel like I’ll fit in really well, ‘ he said.

The five time NBA champion Spurs have been more or less out of the spotlight since Tim Duncan’s retirement in 2016, and haven’t won a league title since 2014. In fact, coach Gregg Popovich’s team hasn’t even qualified for the play-offs since 2020 and were knocked out of the play-in tournament last season by the New Orleans Pelicans.

At 73, Popovich is undertaking a rebuild with fellow 19-year-olds Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley joining Sochan as draft picks to revamp his roster.

On what he thinks he can bring, Sochan added: ‘I think my defense, I feel like I’ll be able to bring it every day. On the ball, off the day, switching. I feel like I’m also a good communicator, so I feel like I’ll be able to do that everyday.

‘I feel like they play like a team, they’re one of the best at assists, they pass the ball, they move the ball. I feel like that’s what I’m really good at, fitting a role and being part of a team. You can’t win without a team.’

Sochan seems unfazed by the Spurs challenge and is eager to get going in his rookie year

Sochan seems unfazed by the Spurs challenge and is eager to get going in his rookie year

Sochan didn’t mince his words when given the limelight. Dressed in a vibrant lavender suit he also could not be missed at the main event at the Barclays Center.

‘I chose it. I like it, it’s one of my favorite colors, so it’s pretty fresh,’ he said of the striking outfit.

Sochan has attracted plenty of attention for his ever-changing hairstyle while tearing it up on the college scene.

He had hoped to make a similar kind of statement by performing for the Spurs in the Summer League, but COVID-19 ultimately prevented that. Sochan tested positive ahead of his new teammates jetting off to Las Vegas but again he seemed undaunted.

‘It was a bummer,’ he told the San Antonio Express News. ‘It was a shame. But it is what it is. I can’t control it. For me, it was positive that we are looking at it being a marathon not a sprint.

Sochan was ruled out of NBA Summer League due to COVID-19 but has been there supporting

Sochan was ruled out of NBA Summer League due to COVID-19 but has been there supporting

‘So even though it would be great to play in the Summer League, I am still here, supporting my teammates, still getting experience. It is what it is in the end.’

Sochan was indeed seen cheering on his new colleagues against the Grizzlies last week but he did also manage to make his way into the public eye.

New teammates Sochan and Branham took part in a jovial on-camera game where they had to guess what was written on a piece of paper.

Hints could be given and for the answer ‘triple double’ Branham gave the clue ‘Russell Westbrook get em a lot.’

Sochan replied: ‘Bricks.’

The Spurs rookie took to Twitter to clarify his comments, writing: ‘It’s banter, I was not intending on being disrespectful [laughing emoji] heat of the moment, I was playing a game baby.

‘Been one idol since I started watching the NBA and my dog ​​is called Russell [laughing emoji].’

As if all eyes weren’t on him enough. He may need his defensive game to be on point when Westbrook’s Lakers take to the AT&T Center.

None, Sochan means business.

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