Pre-season lessons not lost on Ukic

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Roko Ukic would have cramped his shooting arm writing thank-you cards had he chosen to recognize all the Raptors personnel who have helped him this rookie year.

So, the "Croatian Sensation" as the Raps' television crew dubbed him, just gave a big shout-out following practice yesterday at the Air Canada Centre.

Ukic went from looking like a confused kid during the early NBA exhibition schedule to 15 minutes of fame in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, running the team's offence with ease in point guard Jose Calderon's stead.

Ukic contributed four points (on 2-of-7 shooting), two assists, a rebound and a steal.

"I've talked to a lot of our coaches, Sam (Mitchell), Gord (Herbert), Jay (Triano), Alex (English) and Mike (Evans)," Ukic said yesterday. "After a while, they made me see what I can do.

"And the players on the team helped me, too, especially Jose, who knows so much about the position."

Mitchell has showed extraordinary patience with Ukic this month, even when the young guard messed up in the middle of an exhibition game. Mitchell could be seen giving him a stern, but controlled, lecture and sending the 23-year-old back out.

"The pre-season helped, because now, when I go out, I know where to go and I am not nervous," Ukic said.

It all paid off Wednesday when it came time for Mitchell to rest Calderon. Down by three points when he inserted Ukic, the Raps were eight ahead when he came out.

Ukic said he didn't elicit any reaction from the veteran Sixers when he went into his first regular season game.

"It was just cool to be there," he said.


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