Raptors sign Aussie Jawai

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo is down in Las Vegas, but he isn't spending his days shooting craps.

Yesterday, Colangelo signed forward/centre Nathan Jawai to a two-year contract. The Raptors acquired the draft rights to Jawai from the Indiana Pacers. He was the 41st overall selection in this year's draft.

Colangelo also expanded the coaching staff, hiring Canadian born Gordon Herbert as an assistant in charge of player development.

Herbert, a native of Penticton, B.C., is a former Canadian national team player, who represented Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympics, where the team finished fourth.

After playing at the University of Idaho and pro in Finland for 12 years, Herbert began a long and impressive coaching career in Europe, including stints with the Frankfurt Skyliners, where he won the German League title in 2006.

He also had stints in Paris and Pau Orthezm, whichwon the French Cup in the 2006-07 season. Last season, he coached the Greek team, Aris BC.

Colangelo said the Raptors have been thinking about expanding the coaching staff for a while and Herbert is a good fit with so many international players on the roster, including Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Jawai and, soon, Roko Ukic.

"He brings us a lot of international experience, and as the game evolves, with more international players, the more expertise we have in that regard is a plus," Colangelo said. "I've been considering doing something with Gordie for a number of years, and this year the timing is right."

As for Jawai, the 6-foot-10, 287-pound Australian giant joined the Raptors yesterday in Las Vegas in preparation for the club's first game in the NBA Summer League. The Raptors face the Sacramento Kings this afternoon at Cox Pavilion. Because of a strained groin suffered a few weeks ago, he was unable to take part in drill work or 5-on-5 sessions yesterday, but Colangelo said the injury is improving.

Jawai, the first indigenous (Aboriginal) player from Australia to be drafted by an NBA team, was the unanimous 2008 Rookie of the Year in Australia's National Basketball League. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in 30 games for the Cairns Taipans.

He ranked third in the NBL in rebounding, fifth in field goal percentage (.575) and ninth in blocked shots (1.0). He also captured MVP honours at the 2008 NBL all-star game, after registering 24 points and 12 rebounds.

After the Summer League, he will remain in Vegas and attend the Tim Grgurich Big Man's camp, along with Bargnani.

"He's a big, strong, raw player right now, but he'll surprise you with his athleticism," Colangelo said of Jawai. "He has tremendous upside. He's a 22-year-old who has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways and he has great quickness and good footwork around the basket."

Meanwhile, there are reports that former Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa has been offered a contract by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors bought Garbajosa out of his contract this spring.

The Spanish international played only seven games for Toronto last season after undergoing surgery as a result of a broken leg and displaced ankle suffered in a game in Boston on March 26, 2007.


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