Competitive Start To Raptors Pre-Draft Workouts In Toronto
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Toronto Raptors officially kicked off their pre-draft workouts on Wednesday with a morning session at Air Canada Centre. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona), Maurice Walker (Minnesota), Justin Anderson (Virginia), Chavaughn Lewis (Marist) and Dallin Bachynski (Utah) were the six prospects participating.
The energy was high as the session broke down into three-on-three, two-on-two and one-on-one drills. Hollis-Jefferson and Anderson especially kept the practice court audience’s attention as they engaged in friendly trash talk.
“[Today was] competitive,” Anderson said. “We had Hollis-Jefferson, Jerian Grant and I, three guards who were really competing. We wanted to win every time. It may not have been as physical [as a previous workout in Boston], but it was a bunch of guards who can really get after it. Hollis-Jefferson with his defensive ability, Jerian and I and our ability to score and defend, I think it was a phenomenal workout.”
Hollis-Jefferson and Anderson have been matched up repeatedly during their pre-draft workouts and have gotten to know each other well. While it’s good to see a familiar face when arriving at the next stop, it’s all about business when the ball goes up.
“At the end of the day this is our job, this is what we are trying to become great at,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “There are no friends on the basketball court at the end of the day. You can joke buddy-buddy, haha, after you get off the court but on it there’s definitely a rivalry.”
Known for his defensive ability, Hollis-Jefferson was asked whether he gets amped up to work out for teams with defensive-minded coaches. It didn’t take long for him to shoot down the notion of seeking out extra motivation going into a workout.
“I think if you get up because you have a great defensive coach or you get up because you are playing for a coach who likes scoring, then you are weak,” he said. “I think no matter what position you are in, you should be up. I feel like I’m up all the time.”
Grant Familiar With Workout Process
The two gave dazzling post-workout interviews, speaking confidently about their own games and the work that lay ahead. While Grant was a bit quieter, he had the kind of confidence that comes from inside knowledge of how the system works, being the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant, nephew of four-time NBA champion Horace Grant and the brother of Philadelphia 76ers player Jerami Grant.
Experiencing NBA workouts along with gruelling travel schedules and seemingly never-ending interviews with media and front-office staff is a difficult thing to prepare for. Grant has been able to get hands on advice to make the process easier.
“I stay in contact with my family — my Dad, my uncle, my brother who have all been through this process,” Grant said. “And then friends too. Pat Connaughton is my old teammate who is in the process with me, so [I’m] just staying in contact with those people."
Grant said the best piece of advice his family had given him was to focus on competing every time he stepped onto the court.
“You are going to be tired, but everyone is tired,” Grant said. “When you get out there, just play with a lot of energy.”
Raptors VP of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman all but co-signed the advice given to Grant when he assessed the day’s workout: “The No. 1 thing, and it’s not a pre-requisite, is that they play hard and compete and don’t kind of give into the fatigue with their level of competitiveness. None of them did that today, which is very encouraging for our pick.
“It was a chatty group on the floor,” Weltman continued. “They are the ones that make the workout. Our coaches did a great job of keeping the drills high-energy and moving along quickly and very competitive. But the players make it. They bring the energy and define what the energy is going to be. That’s who they are. These guys are go-getters, the guys that were here today.”
Grant’s younger brother went through the draft process just a year ago and also had a stop though Toronto to work out for the Raptors. His advice to his brother was simple: Do what you do. Just play your game.
For each of the players working out on Wednesday morning, the process has barely begun. It will be a long month where the workload increases and pressures continue to mount. It is the finish line that makes it all worth it.
“It’s the end goal,” Grant said. “The end goal is to get drafted on draft night. I’m working my way to there, so [I’m] going out there and competing and doing my best to better my spot.”