TORONTO – According to Dalano Banton, it is every aspiring youth basketball player’s dream to be groomed by their hometown team.
And his dream was no different.
Banton made history this summer as the first Torontonian — and first Canadian — to be drafted by the Raptors when they selected him with their 46th pick, a night the 21-year-old rookie said was double the joy.
“It is just like a dream come true to wake up and come to the Raptors facility. . . Being drafted is definitely a blessing, but where you are from (being drafted) is definitely like two dreams coming true together.
“Everyone is very welcoming and recognizing the people and them for who I am . . . Just everyone embracing me and being able to show off for the city has been a blessing.”
Playing in his hometown can come with added demands, but Banton said his friends and family – including a solid support team of his parents, grandmother and uncle – helped him adjust to life as a professional basketball player. given space to do.
“They understand that I don’t have access, just to be able to stay focused, come to the gym two to three times a day, I don’t have time to hang out and do all the other things that people want to do. ,” Banton said after the second day of camp at the OVO Athletic Center. “Everyone understands the situation I’m in. . . . They know I’m just going to grind and focus on the future and what the future holds for me.
Banton grew up in Mount Olive, an area inside the hardscrabble Rexdale neighborhood that sits northwest of downtown Toronto and was also home to hockey star PK Subban.
His basketball dreams grew on both the Mount Olive parking lot courts and the nearby North Kipling Community Center and Rexdale Community Hub, which operated easily at staggered times.
“They worked together to keep the kids indoors and play sports,” Banton said. “That was where I definitely made my dream of becoming an NBA player.”
Banton, the Kipling 45 bus, would wear the number 45 as a transit fixture in that area of the city. She said she is fortunate to have neighborhood community centers, which provide a safety net and a place to dream.
“It played a part in . . . building my character,” he said. “I feel like having a tough time and going to these community centers and sharing those tough times with a bunch of other kids. I and a group of others have helped build an agile family in the community in which I lived and grew up. It helped build me into who I am today.”
Banton recalls attending neighborhood camps organized by former longtime raptor DeMar DeRozan.
“Growing up and realizing the dream of being an NBA player was far-fetched, just to see people who play for the Raptors come to your neighborhood, your area, and show love and give back, definitely a blessing.” Was and is doing something that I look forward to doing,” he said.
As the lone Torontonian on the Raptors, Banton has taken on the role of tour guide for some of his new teammates.
“Knowing good dining spots, small venues, small cultural restaurants away from the city, I give references to these people so they can go, some of them have already gone and they love it,” he said.
Banton, who played in Western Kentucky and Nebraska in the NCAA, was called a pre-draft for his court vision and pick-and-roll passing.
Some of Banton’s immediate challenges in camp are putting some weight on his six-foot-nine, 204-pound frame, he said. He also needs to work on his shooting – he’s one of those raptors who take part in extra shooting practice at night.
Head coach Nick Nurse has liked what he has seen so far.
“He’s good, he’s improved a lot since we saw him join us for the first time,” said the nurse. “Another guy who’s on a shooting schedule and it’s paying, his numbers are increasing, he’s made some nice adjustments.
“We have tried to play him at a faster pace and it is really helping him. He’s really a point guard, he brings the ball and has good eyesight, we’re trying to get him in the paint as fast as possible and he can see everyone there so that’s good.
“Interesting because at the other end he blocks shots and rebounds like a 6-9 man,” he said.
The Raptors, affiliated with the Banton team’s G League, could spend a lot of time in the 905 just to make sure the ball is somewhere in their hands, Nurse said, adding the same goes for sophomore guard Malachi Flynn.
With the G League operating a short season in a bubble in Florida, Flynn did not have the same opportunity in the development league to benefit players such as Fred VanValet and Pascal Siakam. They were able to get their NBA feet wet with the 905s a short drive away in Mississauga, Ont., while still practicing and playing games with the Raptors.
The Raptors begin their pre-season on Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto’s first game since February 28, 2020, at the Scotiabank Arena.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 29, 2021.