In an interview with Rafael Barlowe of the Locked On NBA Big Board, the Washington Wizards rookie Bilal Coulibaly provided a deep dive into his journey to the NBA, his mindset, and his playing style. The 19-year-old’s confidence and hard-working nature were evident throughout the interview. So much so that, he made the bold statement: “I’m trying to be Rookie of the Year for sure.”
Seeing Coulibaly set the bar so high for himself is certainly exciting. And why wouldn’t he? Less than a year ago, he was practicing with the U21 team of Metropolitans 92. His meteoric rise in draft boards and into the NBA is proof that anything is possible for the young Frenchman.
Besides the confidence, there were plenty of things Coulibaly said that should be encouraging to hear for the Wizards fans. When asked by Barlowe about what type of player the Wizards are getting, Coulibaly said “a player who always plays as hard as possible…they are getting a dog.”
That is the best thing you can ask for in a rookie. Regardless of the pace of his skill development, at least the Wizards will know that Coulibaly is putting in the work and “being the best version of [himself]” as he put it.
Coulibaly is putting his money where his mouth is. Despite finishing the professional season in France in late June and arriving in the United States and playing in the Summer League immediately, he is not taking any time off. He has been working on his ball-handling and shot all summer. His statement, “right now my defense is better than my offense but I got a lot of offensive potential too” could be a sign of what’s to come.
The way he takes pride in his defensive ability is also exciting. He obviously relishes the opportunity to play defense and takes pride in stopping his man and not letting him score. His confidence on that end of the floor erases any doubt that he will be a solid if not excellent defender from the get-go.
It will be a joy to watch this young, confident man blossom in Washington. Let’s hope he continues his almost unprecedented improvement as a basketball player and keeps growing as a human.