Rookie goalie Dalano Banton is living his dream with his hometown Raptors



It is the dream of any young aspiring basketball player to be drafted by the team of his hometown, according to Dalano Banton.

And his dream was no different.

Banton made history this summer as the first Torontonian – and first Canadian – drafted by the Raptors when they selected him with their 46th pick, a night the 21-year-old rookie said was like double the pleasure.

“It was just a dream come true just to wake up and come to the Raptors facility … being drafted is certainly a blessing, but [to be drafted] where you come from, it’s like two dreams come true at once.

“Everyone has been so welcoming and seeing the people and them recognize who I am… it’s just that everyone hug me and being able to show up for the city has been a blessing.”

Playing in his hometown may come with additional demands, but Banton said his friends and family – including a strong support team made up of his parents, grandmother and uncles – have given him some support. space while he adapts to his life as a professional basketball player.

“They understand that not having access to me, just so I can stay focused, coming to the gym two to three times a day, I don’t have time to hang out and do all the other things people might want to do.” Banton said after day two of camp at the OVO Athletic Center. “Everyone understands the situation I’m in. … They know that I have been focused on grinding and that I am focusing on the future and what the future holds.

Rexdale Roots

Banton grew up in Mount Olive, an area inside the difficult Rexdale neighborhood which is northwest of downtown Toronto and which was also home to hockey star PK Subban.

His basketball dreams sprouted both at a Mount Olive parking lot and at the North Kipling Community Center and Rexdale Community Center, which conveniently operated at staggered hours.

“They kind of worked together to keep the kids inside and play sports,” Banton said. “This is where I built the dream of becoming an NBA player for sure.”

Banton will wear the number 45 in a nod to the Kipling 45 bus, a mass transit device in this part of town. He said he was blessed to have the neighborhood community centers, which provided a safety net and a space to dream.

“They played a role in… building my character,” he said. “I feel like having a hard time and going to these community centers and sharing those hard times with a bunch of other kids and a bunch of other people has helped build a tight-knit family in the community in which I lived and grew up on. He helped me become the person I am today. “

Banton recalls attending neighborhood camps run by longtime ex-raptor DeMar DeRozan.

“Growing up and feeling like the dream of being an NBA player was far-fetched, just seeing guys who play for the Raptors come to your neighborhood, your area and show love and giving back was definitely a blessing and something that I look forward to doing, ”he said.

Touristic guide

As the only Torontonian in the Raptors, Banton has acted as a tour guide for some of his new teammates.

“Knowing the great restaurants far from the city center, the little places, the little cultural restaurants that I refer these guys to so they can go, some of them have been there before and they loved it,” said he declared.

Banton, who played for Western Kentucky and Nebraska in the NCAA, was praised before the draft for his vision of the field and his pick-and-roll passes.

Some of Banton’s immediate challenges at camp, he said, are putting weight on his six-foot-nine, 204-pound frame. He also has to work on his shooting – he’s one of the Raptors who attend additional nighttime shooting practices.

Head Coach Nick Nurse has liked what he’s seen so far.

“He’s good, he’s improved a lot since we first saw him join us,” said Nurse. “Another guy that’s in the shooting program and it pays, his numbers are going up dramatically, he made some good adjustments.

“We made him try to play at a faster pace and that really helps him. He’s really a point guard, he brings the ball and has good vision, we try to get him into the paint as fast as he can. ‘he can 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 guy would,” he added.

Could be heading to Mississauga

Banton could spend a lot of time in the 905 G League-affiliated Raptors just to make sure he has the ball in his hands somewhere, Nurse said, adding that the same is true. for second-year guard Malachi Flynn.

With the G League operating a season cut short in a Florida bubble, Flynn didn’t have the same opportunity in the development league that has benefited players such as Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. They were able to get their NBA feet wet with the 905s a short drive away from Mississauga, Ont., While continuing to train and play for the Raptors.

The Raptors open the preseason Monday against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto’s first game at Scotiabank Arena since February 28, 2020.


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