Source: Toronto SunIt is doubtful the Raptors know more about any other prospect than Solomon Alabi.
Alabi, the tallest player eligible for the 2010 NBA Draft, worked out Tuesday for the team’s braintrust, which includes a very familiar face.
Raptors assistant GM of player personnel Masai Ujiri discovered the fellow Nigerian six years ago at the basketball camp he runs in his native country and has kept close tabs as his 6-foot-9 camper grew into a 7-foot-1 centre and legitimate first-round prospect.
“He grew up in the same part as I did in Nigeria and that’s where I was doing my camp (originally),” Ujiri said after watching Alabi, Marshall centre Hassan Whiteside, South Florida guard Dominique Jones and Cincinnati guard Lance Stephenson work out.
“He came and was very intriguing. We got him into Basketball Without Borders, one of the many we’ve tried to develop there.”
But few of Ujiri’s prospects have come as far as Alabi, who anchored one of the NCAA’s top defences at Florida State, becoming just the ninth player in ACC history to lead that tough conference in blocked shots two years in a row.
Ujiri, who joined the Raptors in 2007, said 80-90 Nigerians have received NCAA basketball scholarships in recent years, and predicted Alabi would be “one of the first” to crack the NBA’s first round.
“He’s a great example for the kids back home, I’m very, very proud,” said Ujiri, who added he hopes to have Alabi as an instructor at his camp in Nigeria this summer.
“People look up to me now (and are) playing basketball now because of me, I want to give back,” Alabi said.
Alabi needs to put on weight and won’t make a huge impact right away, but has a nice offensive touch to go along with his defensive abilities.
Ujiri said he thinks both Alabi and Whiteside will get better with time, but can have an impact next year.
“He meant a lot in my life,” Alabi said of Ujiri. “When I started playing basketball in a small town (Kaduna) where not too many people knew about basketball and only a few people played basketball, Masai did a camp in my town and . . . that’s when I started getting exposed to basketball.”When I started playing, I never played on a basketball court,” said Alabi, who is projected to go late in the draft’s first round. “I played on dirt on the ground, they don’t even have concrete on the floor. I went to the camp and they had concrete on the floor . . .
“Basketball Without Borders really helped me. That’s where I first got exposed to well-organized basketball and that really encouraged me to play basketball more.”“We’re slowing getting there and with the programs like Basketball Without Borders and the big-man camp and all the programs growing in Africa . . . we’re very, very proud of these kids,” said Ujiri.“He’s a great example for the kids back home,” said the Raptors executive. “With a country like Nigeria and a continent like Africa, with the population, there are so many kids, we just need the facilities and you guys (the media) to promote the game a little bit and we can build some more courts over there and grow the game.”Source: The Star“I feel like if I get the opportunity to play in the NBA, I want to give back to my people in Nigeria because the town I came out from, there are people who look up to me now. I’m the one guy who came out of my town to play basketball,” he said.
“I want to go back and show them that I’ve grown into a man through basketball.”
We all know Colangelo's ego isn't as big as his collars. He respects his support team and always seeks out their opinions and views on players. He's made moves in the past, crediting others around him with the decision. Now we hear rumors that the Raptors want to grab a pick in the 20's and Solomon Alabi just happens to be slated in that area of the draft. Thoughts?