Mitchell credits Babcock

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell set the record straight yesterday concerning whose decision it was to draft forward Charlie Villanueva with the team's seventh overall pick in last year's draft.

Mitchell felt compelled to comment after noted media blowhard Stephan A. Smith told The Score television network this week that it was not general manager Rob Babcock's idea to draft Villanueva.

Smith initially dumped on Babcock and the Raptors for drafting Villanueva. He has since changed his tune, admitting that choosing Villanueva was a wise choice. However, Smith insisted that it was Mitchell and Wayne Embry, senior adviser to the president, who wanted Villanueva, and that Babcock wanted Antoine Wright.

"Charlie Villanueva would not be a Toronto Raptor if Rob Babcock did not draft him," Mitchell said yesterday following the team's morning shootaround at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

Mitchell added that the consensus in the draft room among Raptors executives was that Villanueva, despite being considered a power forward like Chris Bosh, was the right player to take.

"Rob and Wayne looked at me and said, 'If we draft Charlie, what you going to do with him?' I said, 'I'm going to put my best basketball players on the court.' And Rob said, that's what I believe (too).'

"We talked about a lot of guys," Mitchell added, "but at the end of the day, when we narrowed it down, Charlie Villanueva was our guy, and Rob made the pick."

AROUND THE RIM

According to the Detroit News, the Raptors are interested in hiring Pistons' director of player personnel and chief international scout Tony Ronzone as Toronto's new assistant GM, although Detroit president Joe Dumars has not been contacted by the Raptors as of yet. Another name being mentioned for the assistant GM job -- yet again -- is Portland TrailBlazers scout John Gabriel ... Forward Joey Graham is a popular guy in these parts, having played at Oklahoma State. A story about Graham's rookie season appeared on the front sports page of a local newspaper yesterday.


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