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Raptors Close Out Week of Draft Workouts with More Canadian Content

une 6, 2006

TORONTO (CP) - Jermaine Bucknor became the latest Canadian to work out for the Toronto Raptors on Friday and he auditioned liked anything but a token local kid.

The unheralded Edmonton forward opened some eyes among the Raptors brass during the 90-minute session at the Air Canada Centre in his first NBA workout.

``Very surprising,'' said Jim Kelly, the Raptors' director of player personnel. ``Versatility. He looks like he could defend some fours (power forwards). Twos (shooting guards) and threes (small forwards) as well. He shot the ball well and had a little bit of grit to him.

``I thought he had a very good showing here today.''

The six-foot-seven Bucknor shone as a high school player at Edmonton's Ross Sheppard, named team MVP all four years. Then in college, he led the University of Richmond in scoring (13.5 points per game) and steals (1.2 per game) and was second in rebounding (4.3 per game) in his senior season. He's also been a key member of Canada's national team the past couple of summers.

But coming from a small college program, he flew under the radar _ Kelly admitted he'd never seen Bucknor play _ and now he's just hoping to leave a lasting impression.

``I came from a small school, but a good a program,'' said Bucknor. ``I've worked hard over the past few years to try to build myself up, to just give myself an opportunity like this. That's where I see myself right now.''

Bucknor held his own with Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara and Cincinnati forward James White _ the NCAA slam dunk winner _ along with Duke guard Sean Dockery, Oklahoma forward Taj Grey and South Florida forward Solomon Jones at the Air Canada Centre on Friday.

``These are guys from big schools, guys I watch on TV all the time, but at the same time, it's basketball. Basketball is basketball,'' said Bucknor. ``I'm 22 years old, I've been playing this game for a long time, just like these guys have been playing for a long time. I went to a smaller school, but I still think I can hang a little bit with them.''

The Raptors have already worked out Toronto's Denham Brown (Connecticut) and Jermaine Anderson (Fordham) and Montreal's Mohamed Hachad (Northwestern).

Brown, arguably the best player to come out of Canada since NBA all-star Jamaal Magloire, has a good shot at going somewhere in the NBA draft. But more often, the Canadian workouts are more a gesture by the Raptors to the basketball community.

``I think it's a healthy environment, we're all trying to build basketball here in Canada,'' said Kelly. ``For the betterment of basketball in Canada, I think we're all looking forward for that. And if this helps out, so be it.

``They're pretty good players, and they could be good Canadian players which in turn could make it more interesting for us,'' Kelly added. ``I think especially today Jermaine showed himself very well, and he's not a guy with a lot of notoriety out there.

``Everyone needs a break to start somewhere and we brought them in to take a closer look at them and we'll see what happens after that.''

The Raptors have the first overall pick, along with the 35th and 56th.

They've taken some flak in the past for passing on Canadians with their late second-round picks _ namely, Carl English in 2003 and Juan Mendez in 2005. Both went undrafted and are playing pro ball in Europe.

But at this level, Kelly said nationality can't be a major factor.

``I think we'll lean toward the player that plays the best for us. (Nationality) is a consideration but I don't think that should be the major consideration why you take him,'' said Kelly.

Bucknor has no other NBA workouts planned, so he'll head to Washington, D.C., to work out with a friend, and then back to Richmond, Va. He'll likely join the Canadian team for a series of exhibition games in Italy, Germany and Slovenia in July.

After that, he'll likely be bound for a pro league in Europe.

``I would love to play in the NBA, it's a dream of mine, it's a dream I've always had, I've always looked towards that and that's still the No. 1 goal in my basketball career right now,'' said Bucknor. ``If it doesn't work out, I'll definitely go overseas and work my way back to get another opportunity, another shot to play here.''

NOTES: White put on a leaping display for Raptors staff, hitting the very top peg on the standard used to measure a player's vertical jump. ``He's a future competitor for sure in the NBA slam dunk, possible winner,'' said Kelly. ... McNamara said he models his game around Canada's MVP Steve Nash. ``He's as good as they get and he makes people better. He's at the top of the league right now and what he's doing is pretty special. I think he's really effective because he gets his body where it needs to be and that's what I have to work on.''