Moon to dunk for the stars

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Raptors rookie Jamario Moon has been invited to participate in the NBA slam-dunk contest next month in New Orleans.

And it's a virtual slam-dunk that he will play in the rookie-sophomore contest as part of the all-star game festivities as well, which would make it the fifth year in a row that a Raptors player has participated in that event.

Though it hasn't been announced officially, Moon was told by Stu Jackson, the NBA's executive vice-president of basketball operations, on Friday that he would take part in the slam-dunk.

Moon quietly has established himself as one of the top first-year players in the NBA this season. He is second among rookies in rebounds (6.4 per game) and blocks (1.66), is third in minutes per game (29.3) and eighth in points (8.2).

"I believe that everybody who can dunk, and had a dream to play in the NBA, wants to be in the NBA dunk contest," said Moon yesterday, following the Raptors practice at the Air Canada Centre. "And playing in the rookie game would be an added bonus."

An even bigger bonus is the fact that New Orleans is only about a four-hour drive from Moon's hometown of Goodwater, Ala., meaning that many of his family and friends can attend.

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell takes great pride in how much Moon has progressed this season, and how fast. Prior to signing with the Raps as an unheralded free agent on July 10, the 27-year-old was a career minor- leaguer.

"I told you guys, I didn't think Jamario Moon could help us until the second half the season," Mitchell said. "I thought it was going to take 41 games for him to just to get used to this type of environment.

"But what can you say? Everything that he gets, he deserves. I haven't given him anything. He's earned it."

Indeed, Moon went from being a long-shot just to make the team, to the club's starting small forward, over higher profile signings Jason Kapono and Carlos Delfino. The aerobatic Moon has become a fan favourite at the ACC and has been the subject of choice for out-of-town sports writers when the Raptors touch down in various NBA cities -- all of which has surprised Mitchell.

"I've got people coming to me now, wanting to give him shoe deals," said the coach. "But he's handled it well. He's not a kid, he's an adult. But you're proud, you're happy for him."

As for the slam dunk contest, Moon said his goal is to bring the trophy back to Toronto. The only time a Raptor has won the event was in 2000, when Vince Carter -- with the help of teammate Tracy McGrady -- dazzled the crowd.

"Vince had some sick dunks, man," Moon said, adding that he has a few up his sleeve that no one in Toronto has yet seen. "I just hope I can go to the dunk contest and beat some of his dunks. If I beat some of his dunks, then I know I can bring the trophy back to Toronto."


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