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Wes Unseld Jr.: Bilal Coulibaly doesn’t seem affected by the rigors of NBA

Bilal Coulibaly is approaching the halfway mark of the season with the Washington Wizards, and the seventh pick believes he is holding up well from a physical standpoint.

His coach agrees with him.

Coulibaly has emerged as a key rotation player this season with the Wizards, appearing mostly off the bench. He has given the second unit a spark on offense, given his lightning-quick speed, and a high-level defender on the other end.

The 19-year-old has missed only one game and is playing 26.6 minutes on average. The team has six games left until it reaches the midway point of the season, but Wes Unseld Jr. believes Coulibaly is handling the rigors of the schedule well thus far.

It doesn’t seem to affect him. He does a really good job of maintenance as far as the strength and conditioning program. We haven’t seen a drop off in his energy or anything physically, so that is a positive sign. I also think it is new for him, so this is the first time he’ll play this many games in a condensed season. We’ll see where it takes him, but thus far, he has been pretty good.

Said Coulibaly: “I feel good. I’m getting good recovery. The guys and staff have done a good job of talking to me so I know how I feel, too. Everybody has been doing a great job and I feel good.”

Coulibaly is averaging 8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 39.6% shooting from 3-point range. He is fifth among rookies in 3-point percentage and is one of five first-year players shooting at least 48% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc.

He has dazzled at times on defense with his length and instincts and has drawn several tough assignments, such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and others. He is one of four first-year players to record at least 20 steals and 20 blocked shots.

Despite his seemingly strong display on defense, Coulibaly believes he has slipped some in that area of late. He cited letting players get past him recently as one aspect that must improve.

I feel like, sometimes, I get drive-bys; this is not who I am. Those types of plays, I feel like I’m not playing as hard as I used to do these days. I don’t know why, but I’m going to get back to it. I’m not worried about that.

Coulibaly emerged as one of the top prospects last year after putting up a stellar season with Metropolitans 92 in the French League. He played with both the under-21 team and the senior team, proving his maturity at such a young age.

He has drawn high praise for that maturity and professionalism since joining the Wizards. He understands which areas of his game need to improve and vowed to return to playing at a consistent level.

“I’m struggling a little bit these days, but I’m going to get back to what I’ve been used to (doing),” Coulibaly said. “I’m just happy to prove to everybody that I’m not that young; I can play against grown men.”

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire