Pack felt Katrina's wrath

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

ST. CATHARINES -- The challenge Robert Pack faces at Raptors training camp does not compare to the obstacles his family has had to overcome the past month.

The New Orleans-born NBA veteran, who was invited to training camp by the Raptors to compete for the No. 3 point guard spot, watched in horror from his home in Dallas as his hometown was flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

Thankfully, Pack has accounted for all his friends and family members. Twelve of them stayed in Pack's house in Dallas after the storm and the lone missing person, a 52-year-old aunt, was found a month after Katrina struck when she was tracked down in Shreveport with the help of bank records.

"It was a tough month for the people of New Orleans," said Pack, 36, the oldest player at camp. "Just devastation ... being a part of it and seeing it every day, waking up in a state of confusion. Just think about it -- you wake up and everything's gone."

Pack spent his childhood in the poor Lower Ninth Ward, which was destroyed by the hurricane.

"Where people were sitting on the roofs, that's where I grew up, that's where I learned to play the game," he said. "Seeing on TV, my old neighbourhood and my old high school under water, that's tough to see. Everyone felt it, but when it's close to you, it's harder to swallow."

Pack didn't hesitate in opening his house when he realized the magnitude of the situation.

"It didn't matter, it could have been a hut," Pack said. "If it was safe, I was bringing them all in. It was just a matter of my family being safe and that was all I cared about."

As for basketball, Pack played last year in Lithuania for a team owned by ex-NBAer Arvydas Sabonis after being waived by the New Jersey Nets in 2004. Pack has played with seven NBA teams and broke in with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1991 after going undrafted.

He figures to battle rookie Corey Williams and Tierre Brown for the final spot.

"It has been a little while (since he came into a camp without a guaranteed contract), but I came into the league like that," Pack said. "I wasn't drafted and I came in battling.

"It's not something I fear."

Pack turned down similar offers from other NBA teams because he feels the door is open in Toronto.

"I just felt there was an open situation at third point guard, where I can come in and battle for a position," he said. "I felt like I can help this club. I still have the ability to play as well as my leadership and being able to help young guys along."


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