Raptors guard praised

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

Jerry West, an NBA Hall of Famer and president of the Memphis Grizzlies, turned to face Scott Howard of the Raptors at a recent European championship game in Belgrade.

West felt a need to congratulate Howard, Toronto's director of international player personnel, for the Raptors' acquisition of point guard Jose Calderon, who had just scored 17 points to lead Spain to a 89-70 victory over Serbia and Montenegro.

Signed by Raptors general manager Rob Babcock to back up Rafer Alston, Calderon is performing very well for his native Spain at the European championships in Belgrade, heading into this week's quarter-finals.

The native of Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, is averaging 12.7 points and 2.7 assists in three games and is shooting 46% from the field.

"That's why we signed him," Babcock said, when asked about Calderon's play at the Europeans. "He's a very good basketball player."

Calderon, 24, considered one of the best guards in Europe, played at the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2002 world championship in Indianapolis, where the Spanish team finished fifth.

Roko Ukic of Croatia and Uros Slokar of Slovenia, both second-round picks by the Raptors this summer, also are playing at the Europeans. Ukic, a guard who has signed to play for Vitoria of the Spanish team this season, has averaged 4.7 minutes, while Slokar, a forward, has yet to see any game action for Slovenia in Belgrade.

Babcock expects a period of adjustment for Calderon in Toronto, in terms of the style of play in the NBA, as well the cultural differences.

Babcock said Calderon and his wife both speak basic English while he and first-round draft pick Charlie Villanueva both speak Spanish, so the language barrier shouldn't be a major problem when training camp opens Oct. 4 at Brock University in St. Catharines.

HURRICANE HELP

Some tickets remain for the gala fundraiser which Jamaal Magloire of the New Orleans Hornets is holding on Sept. 29 at the York Event Theatre, 101 Eglinton Ave. E. Tickets for the event, to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina, are available at 416-441-1424.


Photos