Koloko: blocks, buckets, blunders and ambitions in Raptors 905 win

Kids Day. Kids Game. Man's Win.

Raptors 905 110, Birmingham Squadron 89 Box Score

On Assignment: Christian Koloko
Two-ways: Jeff Dowtin Jr., Ron Harper Jr.

No NBA draft pick envisions being sent down to their club’s minor league team when they’re shaking Adam Silver’s hand at the dais of their dreams. But for Raptors second round pick Christian Koloko, who scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked four shots and committed eight turnovers in Wednesday’s victory over the Birmingham Squadron (2-11), a G League assignment is just fine with him.

“Every time you step on the court you always feel like a kid,” Koloko said after a morning game where hundreds of school-aged children provided a deafening din en route to a blowout win. “Because that’s been my dream since I was a kid. Every time I step on the court, NBA, or even NBA G League, it’s just a dream. You just feel like a kid every time.” 

Before the game Raptors 905 Head Coach Eric Khoury said Koloko was sent down to clean up the “little things” – avoid foul trouble, get his conditioning back with live reps, and work on his three point shot. The results were a mixed bag.

Koloko committed four fouls in 29 minutes and could not hit on either of his three point attempts. The 22-year old rookie also committed eight turnovers, some via being stripped by Birmingham’s swarming help defence, two others on unnecessary push-offs that were whistled for offensive fouls. And Koloko’s rebounding total was inflated by missing many bunnies around the rim and just grabbing his own misses.

“I feel I want to improve everything, to be honest,” Koloko said when asked what specific areas of his game he’d like to work on while with the 905. “I feel like I still have a long way to go on both ends of the floor. That’s why I’m here. Just to play more minutes and to get more comfortable with me having the ball and making decisions. “

Koloko’s “non-little things”, however, were stellar – excellent help defence, leading to four blocks, and multiple alley-oop dunks off of the pick-and-roll,

and a duck-in.

Just being a lob-threat opened up the 905’s spacing too, leading to the G League’s fourth-worst three point shooting team to go 18-for-42 (42.9%) from beyond the arc.

The 905 face the Squadron again tonight at 7:30pm.

Reggie Perry Gets His Own Section

Coming off G League Player of the Week honours, where he averaged 29 points, nearly seven rebounds, two assists, over a steal and a block over a 3-1 stretch, Reggie Perry was dominant against Birmingham. It wasn’t his usual blend of bruising scoring (13 points) and rebounding (nine) that stood out the most. It was his play making. Perry matched his career-high of nine assists, and these passes were advanced, like “skip-passes-into-shooting-pockets-for-wide-open-threes” advanced.

Perry also helped break the game open in the beginning of the second half. Before the opening inbounds Perry decided he wanted to guard the Squadron’s leading scorer Kelon Martin. Birmingham started the half with possession, which was followed by:

-Perry blowing up a dribble handoff to Martin, stealing the ball, then passing to Raptors two-way Ron Harper Jr. for a transition layup.

-Next possession – Perry steal + assist to guard David Johnson for a layup

-Next possession – Perry forces Martin into a travelling violation.

To recap, Perry forced three turnovers and created four points in the span of 68 seconds.

“He’s one of the smartest basketball players I’ve ever been around,” Khoury gushed post game. “And I’m not talking G League, I’m talking G League and NBA. He sees the game really well. Showing this kind of playmaking chops… because even at the next level there’s not going to be a lot of guards that can guard him, so when teams switch, when he’s able to absorb a second defender, a third defender and create advantages for his teammates, even if it’s not to get the assist but to put the team in rotation, that’s when he’s at his best.” 

Sweet Quotes on Kids Day

With the kids in the crowd I asked Coach Khoury his favourite childhood basketball memory, and a few players if there’s been a time during their pro journey where they’ve felt like a kid. I couldn’t find a place to weave this into the game story but these quotes were too sweet to leave on the cutting room floor.

Khoury: We had Sprite Zone tickets, which were super fun (Sprite Zone tickets were quite cheap). My brother and I would hop on the subway, head down, and watch a whole bunch of games. One year for Christmas our parents got us really good seats, which was super fun. We were those young kids talking so much junk to the other team. I think it was against Dallas, but I KNOW it was against Jason Kidd! I don’t know why but we were just picking on Jason Kidd. That was one of my favourite basketball memories for sure.

Sterling Brown (team-high 20 points, 268 games of NBA experience): I would say now. Not playing the game the first few months of the season can definitely put you in a different perspective. When you come back you gotta enjoy it. You gotta be grateful to be able to play the game. I’m definitely grateful. Right now I’m having fun. Shoot, like you said, I’m like a kid again, like a kid in a candy store, just being able get out there, run up and down, win, shoot, just play basketball, really. It’s fun to me. The goal is to obviously get back to the next level but wherever I’m playing at I’m definitely going to try to win and have fun at the end of the day. 

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