News doesn’t slow for long weekends and basketball doesn’t stop during the offseason. After the Raptors held their first two pre-draft workouts last week, the team had another two this week, starting on the holiday Monday and finishing on Tuesday. Also happening: News that Raptors General Manager Jeff Weltman would be leaving for the Orlando Magic where he’ll become President of the Magic.
Following Tuesday’s workout, Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke with the media about Weltman’s impact in Toronto as well as the close friendship the two have built over their years working together, calling the move to Orlando a “phenomenal opportunity for an unbelievable person” while acknowledging it will be strange getting used to decision making without the person who was always his first call and travel partner on scouting trips.
“I think he has paid his dues,” Ujiri said. “An unbelievable person, a great basketball mind and the time has come. We all have to live with it. It’s sad sometimes but I think eventually it was going to happen somewhere, somehow.”
In Monday’s six-player workout, the Raptors brought in Tyler Dorsey from Oregon, Canadian Dillon Brooks from Oregon, Kobi Simmons from Arizona, Semi Ojeleye from SMU, Markis McDuffie from Wichita State and Jonathan Williamsfrom Gonzaga to workout. While the workout was filled with interesting prospects, none were happier than Brooks to be in Toronto working out for the Raptors and getting to spend time with his dog, Zeus.
“Got to stay with my own family, got to sleep in my own bed,” Brooks said. “It felt good. I had three workouts sleeping in a hotel.
I got to see my dog, it felt good coming out here, playing for the home team.”
Though Brooks was working out alongside Oregon teammate Dorsey, being in Toronto was comforting because of the familiarity he has with the organization. As guys go through the workout circuit, there will be fellow draftees they continue to cross paths with and getting to also build that familiarity helps make the process a bit easier. For teammates going through the pre-draft experience together, it can mean having a sounding board to help smooth out the process.
“You get to talk a little trash a little bit,” Brooks said. “After the workout you get to text teammates like Jordan [Bell]) and Dylan [Ennis], tell them you out-worked them and it’s all jokes and fun. Especially the camaraderie with the Oregon Ducks, we all want to be the best, we all want to go somewhere and we all look out for one another.”
After discussing Brook’s teammate and fellow Canadian Dylan Ennis last week, Raptors director of player personnel Dan Tolzman was asked about Brooks’ game on Monday.
“Dillon is a guy, who you all know, brings so much passion to the table,” Dan Tolzman said. “Whatever he doesn’t offer skill and talent wise he makes up for just with his winning plays and outplaying his opponents. I think he has shown he can score and defend and do all the things you look for energy-type guys and he brings that.”
On Tuesday, the Raptors had another six-player workout. Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Maryland’s Justin Jackson, Illinois State’s Mikyle McIntosh, Baylor’s Jonathan Motley and Ole Miss’ Sebastian Saiz were in town to show what they could do in the morning workout session.
With the deadline for withdrawing from the draft process arriving on Wednesday, Maryland’s Jackson said he would be spending his Tuesday night weighing the pros and cons of staying in the draft versus returning to school. Though the situation may be stressful for some, Jackson said having options actually made the experience easier.
“I’d probably say it’s a bit easier because I have something to fall back on if things didn’t go well,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, I tried to go to every workout, go to the combine, give my 100 percent and hopefully that 100 percent will come back to me.”
For those players that do end up withdrawing from the draft, getting to experience workouts and going through the interviewing process with teams is a huge benefit to help them be better prepared for when they do actually go through the experience.
“I think this first year of doing it, it helps guys prepare better next year,” Tolzman said. “Even the [players] that got invited to the combine the first year, they get to go through all the interviews, they see what the drills are like, and then they can help prepare themselves with that in mind next year and put themselves in a much better comfort zone going through it next year.”
As for having three Canadians in Tuesday’s workout and five overall having come through already, Tolzman said that’s a nod to the ever-expanding basketball culture in the country.
“Not doing it on purpose,” he said. “It’s a sign of what basketball is becoming up here. It’s an indication that so many good NCAA players happen to be from the area and really it’s just a matter of it working out the way it did and a few of them, for whatever reasons, matchups, worked out well. It’s been pretty impressive, even the the last couple of years, the increasing numbers and I only see it getting more and more.”