London ball

Local perspectives Houstan and Raptors-savvy Nembhard

TORONTO — Local NBA prospects Caleb Houstan and Andrew Nembhard would cherish a chance to play for the hometown Raptors, but it remains to be seen if the guards will be available when Toronto makes its pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

The Raptors make their only selection early in the second round, 33rd overall, in the 2022 draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 23. Toronto gave up its first-round pick, which turned out to be the 20th overall, when it acquired Thad Young from the San Antonio Spurs near last season’s trade deadline.

Mock drafts place Houstan and Nembhard between 25th overall and first pick in the second round.

“I’m so grateful to be on this (Raptors) jersey,” Nembhard said after he and Houstan practiced for the Raptors brass at the club’s OVO Athletic Center on Friday.

“You don’t take that for granted. I am grateful for this opportunity and feel very lucky.

The Raptors’ rise and their 2018-19 NBA championship season helped shape the basketball desire of 19-year-old Houstan and 22-year-old Nembhard as they grew up in the nearby communities of Mississauga and Aurora.

“Me and my brother (Devan) stayed up later than we should have watched most games,” Houstan said. Devan, a defensive lineman, has committed to playing football at the University of Notre Dame in the fall.

“The Raptors mean everything,” added Nembhard, whose brother Ryan plays at Creighton University. “When I was really, really young, basketball was at a point where it wasn’t that big (in Toronto). You could see the growth and the love for the Raptors growing, especially with this championship recently.

Both know Raptors head coach Nick Nurse from their ties to the national team program. Houstan helped Canada win a bronze medal at the 2021 FIBA ​​Under-19 Championship in Riga, Latvia.

Nembhard has played alongside Khem Birch and Chris Boucher on previous national teams and knows local Raptors goaltender Dalano Banton well.

Houstan played high school basketball with Raptors guard Scottie Barnes, the NBA Rookie of the Year, at Montverde Academy in Florida.

“He’s my guy, awesome guy, rookie of the year,” Houstan said. “He was killing him. I watched it all year, and I was really proud of it.

“He’s a good person to be around, on and off the pitch.”

In Montverde, Houstan and Barnes were talking about Toronto. Both families are originally from Jamaica, and Houstan was talking about the different slang terms used in the large Jamaican community in Toronto.

The Raptors need to add depth at guard, and Houstan and Nembhard fit into the Raptors’ preference for all-around players.

Houstan declared for the NBA draft after just one season at the University of Michigan. He started 34 games, averaged 10.1 points per game, and shot 35.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Nembhard transferred to Gonzaga after two seasons at the University of Florida. Gonzaga went undefeated in the 2020-21 season but lost in the NCAA Finals to Baylor.

Nembhard and Gonzaga were knocked out in the third round in 2022, the same round for Houstan and Michigan.

Nembhard made 32 starts for Gonzaga last season, averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 32.3 percent on three.

“I learned to play better with good players, to get off the ball and to be efficient in my limited touches,” Nembhard said when asked about his decision to wait until spring to declare for the club. NBA Draft.

“I also improved my jump shot. You saw my numbers increase and fixed some of my mechanics. I saw growth there and I saw growth in my body.

Houstan enjoys studying the moves of NBA players who have similar body types, like Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), Jayson Tatum (Boston), and Klay Thompson (Golden State).

Nembhard turned heads at the NBA combine in Chicago last month when he scored 26 points and 11 assists in a scrimmage. But he and Houstan don’t get sucked into fictional drafts or draft rankings.

“I don’t have social media, so that doesn’t make it too difficult,” Houstan said.

“You’re going to find out on draft night.”

Nembhard added: “You want to focus on yourself and control what you can control. Most importantly, you only need one team to love you, not all 30.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press