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Yves Missi Drafted By Pelicans in 1st Round

By Jim Eichenhofer, 06/27/24, 11:30AM PDT


When a basketball player hears his name called by Adam Silver during the NBA draft, it sometimes marks the most notable achievement for that prospect’s family, an unparalleled moment within a group of close relatives. For 20-year-old Yves Missi, however, Wednesday’s announcement was merely the latest in a lengthy list of accolades for those on his family tree. The Baylor University product’s parents both played for Cameroon’s national basketball teams, with his father now one of the African nation’s most prominent businessmen. He has a sister who was crowned Miss Africa USA and owns her own clothing line, as well as another sister who’s a doctor. A brother graduated from Harvard, where he was also All-Ivy League in hoops.

“He’s got an unbelievable family,” Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew said Thursday of Missi, before joking, “He’s the black sheep of his family, because he’s the only one who doesn’t have a doctoral (degree) or an MBA.”

Born in Belgium in May 2004, Missi spent one year at Baylor before being drafted No. 21 overall by New Orleans, the latest chapter in what’s been a meteoric rise for him in the sport. He only started playing basketball in 2020 and was considered a potential “redshirt” to sit out the 2023-24 college season, but keeps developing at a rapid rate. He started 32 of his 34 games for the Bears last season, averaging 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

“His ascension and rise is amazing, and a tribute to him,” Drew said. “And to how quickly he picks things up, how he progresses.”

To use one example, Missi shot just 51.4 percent from the foul line over the first three months of the season, but in February and March, he made 74.2 percent of his attempts, spending significant time in the gym trying to get better.

“To give you an idea of how he tackles things, he wanted to improve, and we changed his form,” Drew said. “The back half of the year he was at 75 percent. He put in the work to do that.”

Drew is optimistic that Missi’s work ethic, maturity and ability to learn and apply that to the court will allow him to make further progress with the Pelicans. Missi produced the lion’s share of his offense in the paint at Baylor, but his college coach believes he has the potential to expand his offensive skill set.

“First and foremost, physically, he’s still growing and filling out,” Drew said of the 6-foot-11, 229-pounder’s areas of upside. “Three years from today, his body’s going to look completely different. As we say, he’s still a pup. That part is going to continue to improve and get better.

“His skill set – if you can go from (around) 44 percent to 75 percent at the foul line (within the same season), why can’t you become efficient shooting the three-pointer? If he’s shooting the three and getting to the rim – he’s already a great finisher – he’s someone that has the potential to be an NBA All-Star without a doubt. Very few people have that potential.”

Pelicans GM Bryson Graham indicated Wednesday that Missi was not necessarily on NBA scouts’ radar at the outset of the 2023-24 season, but drew Graham’s attention immediately, and particularly after getting more game experience. Drew had initially been unsure how much impact Missi would make as a freshman, but recognized from Day 1 that the recruit’s intangibles and foundation were exceptional.

“When we brought Yves in (as a recruit), we knew what were getting, because of his family’s influence,” Drew said. “He has great role models, a great family heritage. We saw that he was an extremely hard worker, coachable, loyal, humble. He was also a tremendous student. He’s blessed with having not only a great family, but one that’s about the right things. For him, it’s about getting better every day, helping the team win, listening to coaches. That’s everything you want.”