Raps youth best of best?

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh (4) dunks over Charlotte Bobcats players Gerald Wallace (3) and Sean...

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh (4) dunks over Charlotte Bobcats players Gerald Wallace (3) and Sean May (42) during the second half of Toronto's 111-108 win in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005. Bosh had 30 points and 11 rebounds.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Despite being the worst team in the NBA, the Raptors are hoping to send one-third of their active roster to all-star weekend.

The Raptors have one player -- Chris Bosh -- in the running for a berth in the all-star game Feb. 19 in Houston and three potential rookies -- Charlie Villanueva, Jose Calderon and Joey Graham -- for the rookie-sophomore challenge Feb. 17.

While Bosh can make a very strong case he belongs in the mid-season showcase in his third year in the league, the team's poor record might hinder his bid.

As for the rookie trio, Villanueva (third among all NBA rookies in scoring) and Calderon (second in assists) look like locks. Graham (tied for 12th in rookie scoring), along with Calderon), who is the only rookie in the current starting lineup, is on the fence. Nine rookies make the team.

"They have all played very well," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock said of his three rookies. "They have proven they are some of the top rookies in the class. I think they have all played well enough to play in that game."

Villanueva has endured some tough times, including a verbal lashing from coach Sam Mitchell for not practising hard earlier this month, but he has natural offensive touch and can score from all areas of the floor. While he remains a work in progress on defence, Villanueva has exceeded the expectations of his numerous critics.

"I think I have a pretty good shot (to play in the rookie challenge)," Villanueva said. "I'm not really putting too much thought into it. If it happens, it happens. If it don't, it don't. I think it will, though."

Graham wasn't shy about stating his desire to compete for the rookie of the year award this season, but his play has been inconsistent. With athleticism to burn and a rock-solid physique, Graham has the tools to be an effective player. It just might take him some time to become the player he wants to be.

"I don't think about that stuff," Graham said when asked about the rookie challenge. "That's the last thought in my head right now.

"You got to learn each year and try to develop your game and that's what I'm doing."

Calderon, who also has had his inconsistent moments and can be turnover-prone at times, has a knack for finding teammates in the right places. The least-known of the three rookies entering the season, Calderon has opened some eyes and received more than a few kind words from Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy in a recent pre-game media scrum.

The Raptors (6-21), who are 2-1 on their current four-game road swing, will conclude the trip tomorrow night against the league-leading Detroit Pistons.


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