Raps' hedgehog of hoops

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

WATERLOO -- Jorge Garbajosa leaves the "acting" to Ron Jeremy.

The Raptors rookie forward can be "The Porn Player" without showcasing a certain talent that has made Jeremy a star in the adult entertainment industry.

Dubbed "The Porn Player" because he is capable of doing everything well, a key member of Spain's recent world championship basketball team was the last person deserving of such a nickname only a few years ago.

In the first five years of his pro career (1995-2000) with Tau Vitoria of Spain, Garbajosa, 28, took a grand total of one three-point shot. He missed.

"One, at the end of the game," the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Garbajosa said yesterday after the first session of Raptors training camp at RIM Park when asked about his meaningless long-range attempt in 1999-2000. "At the buzzer."

Garbajosa was a spare part on Tau Vitoria, the last big man on the team. But something funny happened when he transferred to Italy's Benetton Treviso, the long-time home of Raptors vice-president/assistant general manager Maurizio Gherardini.

In his first of four seasons with Benetton, Garbajosa added a long shot to his repertoire, draining 28 of 49 three-pointers. In the world championship final against Greece, Garbajosa hit six threes to lead Spain to an easy victory. While improving his shooting, Garbajosa maintained his reputation as a strong defender and rebounder, leading to the nickname.

NOT PRETTY

"It comes from the Internet," Garbajosa said. "It's not the prettiest thing, but it's funny. The first time when I heard it I was like, 'Whoa.' But then when I heard the reason for it and it was funny."

Though Garbajosa is making his debut in the NBA at a relatively old age, Gherardini thinks the Spanish star made the right call in resisting a bid to come to North America earlier.

"He's one of the greatest examples on a guy developing his game on hard work and sacrifice without starting with a great base of pure talent," Gherardini said. "He grew up year by year. He's also been living with two words that identify a champion, being hungry and being humble. Even in the past, after two Italian championships, when they kind of showed him the NBA opportunity, he was humble enough to think probably, 'I'm not good enough.' "

Now, Garbajosa thinks otherwise.

He figures to be an important part of the Raptors' bench brigade if he can transfer his skills to a new continent.

"In the end, basketball is the same everywhere," Garbajosa said. "My coaches are new, my teammates are new, the city is new, but basketball is always the same."


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