Draft pick plays hard

Raptors draft pick Charlie Villanueva. (SUN/Michael Peake)

Raptors draft pick Charlie Villanueva. (SUN/Michael Peake)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- A fatigued Charlie Villanueva is better than many fresh summer league counterparts.

In his professional debut, the "winded" first-round pick made a huge game-tying assist and did plenty of other good things as the Raptors beat the Dallas Mavericks 118-117 in overtime in the Los Angeles summer league opener last night.

"You've got to fight through (fatigue)," said the 6-foot-11 Connecticut product, who scored a team-tying high 21 points on 10 of 17 shooting and had eight rebounds and six assists. "I live for pressure. That's what gets me excited. That (last night) will help down the road without a doubt."

With the Mavericks leading 104-102 in the dying seconds of regulation time, Villanueva drove to the bucket and made a sweet pass to Pape Sow for an open jam with 1.4 seconds left. Then, in overtime, Villanueva chipped in with a big steal.

One summer league game obviously doesn't prove anything. But Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, who stunned many observers by taking Villanueva with the seventh pick, had reason to smile for at least a few minutes.

"He played great," Babcock said of Villanueva, who slowed down in the game's latter stages, but still made big plays. "I thought offensively he was terrific. You can see how skilled he is and what a great feel he has for the game. He makes the players around him better. For the first game, I don't care if it's summer league or anything, he did a nice job."

Babcock's other first-round pick, Joey Graham, committed six fouls, but relaxed summer league rules allowed him to play on. After a tough first half, the small forward elevated his game and finished with 12 points.

"I was real anxious out there," Graham said. "Coming out here, I wanted to make a lot of good things happen at first. I just had to get back to letting the game come to me like I've always been doing."

Second-round pick Uros Slokar, a big-time project, also pleased the Raptors brass, scoring nine points on perfect shooting from the field and the free-throw line.

Slokar fell in love with Toronto when he visited relatives in the area 10 years ago. If the 6-foot-10 Slovenian power forward can overcome long odds, he will have a chance to make Toronto his permanent home down the road.

Slokar, picked 58th overall (third-last) in the draft, came to Waterloo to stop in on an aunt and uncle a decade ago and really enjoyed his tour of Canada's biggest city.

"I love it, I love everything," said Slokar, who has another uncle living in Toronto. "I went to the CN Tower, I went to the Science Centre, which is awesome. It's a great city."


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