Even before the first ball was thrown in the air this season, Zaccharie Risacher of Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse was always going to attract plenty of attention. The wiry 18-year-old forward is among the top prospects his age in the sport.
Zaccharie Risacher, Bourg: 'I do not have any regrets'
After playing a small role with LDLC ASVEL Villeurnbanne the last two seasons, Zaccharie Risacher joined Bourg over the summer seeking more minutes and a greater opportunity. He has taken that opportunity and ran with it to average 13.6 points on 61.9% three-point shooting and 3.6 rebounds per game. The son of former EuroLeague player and French Olympian Stephane Risacher, Zaccharie has Bourg off to a fine start and is solely focused on what he can do for his team, as he explained in this exclusive interview with the official EuroCup website. "I work to be the best version of myself and to win games for my teammates and my club," he said. "The most important thing for me is to have a successful season with Bourg, for the organization and the city."
Congratulations on a great start to the season. With this win, Bourg is 5-2 and undefeated at home. What allowed Bourg play so well right away?
"I would say the dynamic. I've felt great in my new team, from the beginning. We have a great group: great teammates and a great coaching staff. I work a lot outside of practice. I think that is what makes good chemistry - everybody is working hard, so I do the same. I would say it is a lot of little things that have made us have this good start in the EuroCup."
You have been playing better and better, too. How comfortable do you feel in your new team and new role?
"I am really happy to be here in this new team, with a new role, as you say. That's new for me. That's my first pro year, with a real role, and I am glad to be a part of this organization and this team. I feel useful, I feel I can help my team on the court to win games, so that's a great feeling. I do what I get to do and I feel more comfortable game after game. I am really happy to be here."
I am sure you had many offers to go to many different teams. What led you to choose Bourg over all other options?
"I had many options, yes. One in New Zealand, one in Germany, with Ulm... Also, in college with Georgia Tech and one from Paris. There were many options, yes. But I thought that Bourg's plan was the best one for me. The fact that I could play EuroCup and stay in the French championship with a new role, be a major piece of a EuroCup team, that was something that liked when I had to choose. That's it. I do not have any regrets about my choice."
You rank fourth in three-point shooting and shot the ball well last season. How much have you been working on that aspect of your game? What do you do, specifically?
"Three-point shooting was always a strong point of my game, from the beginning. My father taught me how to shoot the ball from far away since I was three years old. That is something that I kept improving on all my life. With my dad and the coaches that I had all my life. Now I keep shooting a lot and I think that's important to develop this part of my game, to be really efficient from the long range."
You mentioned your father. Stephane Risacher played in the EuroLeague for six seasons. How important has he been in your career, in terms of guiding you in the right direction?
"My dad taught me everything. From the beginning, I used to watch him on the court. We did a lot of workouts in the last 10 summers or so. We worked out together a lot when I was young. It was the only time we had together. These last three years I was with ASVEL, in their formation center, so I did not stay at home. I was with the team, I had school... I was in the same city but not living at my parents’, so the time we had together was rather short. At summer, when I got home, we had a lot of time to talk basketball and do some workouts, but during the year, like this year, for example, I talk to him a lot about my game and the last game we played. We talk on the phone or in Bourg, when he comes to visit. We talk about basketball a lot, the last game that I played, the last game that my sister played, the last NBA game, the last EuroLeague game... In my family there's not a time to speak, it just comes naturally."
How important is it for a young player like yourself to play so much in a strong European competition like the EuroCup?
"I will say I think it's a great competition with many adversaries, a lot of great teams and players, too. For a young player like me, that is very helpful in order to become a better player, because there are great, experienced players, but also younger players like me. These reasons make the EuroCup an interesting competition for a player like me."
And speaking of the EuroCup, what do you think about its playing level, the teams you faced until now, and the competition system?
"I really like the EuroCup and playing in this league. The adversaries are tough, the teams are organized, we travel all over Europe... There are different styles of course: Spanish style with Gran Canaria, Greek style with Aris, Lithuanian style with Lietkabelis... That's very interesting. They are all different, but they are all good. There are no easy games here, every game is a war. It's a great place to be, a great competition for a guy like me."
There are many French young players doing well lately: you and Hugo in Bourg, Nadir Hifi in Paris, Ismael Kamagate and Juhann Begarin before him, not to mention Victor Wembanyama. In your opinion, what has led France to develop so many top-class talents lately?
"I really don't know what to say. I am just super proud of the current situation. It is exciting to know that there are so many French prospects, French talents. I think there will be more and more French talents and that's a very good thing for our country."
It is going to be a big battle to be this year's EuroCup Rising Star. What would it mean for you to get the award and to have a successful season with Bourg?
"About the Rising Star, it would be an honor. But that is not actually what I am working for; I work to be the best version of myself and to win games for my teammates and my club. The most important thing for me is to have a successful season with Bourg, for the organization and the city. On a personal level, that's my project for this season."