DeRozan a Kobe-style killer

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo with Raptor number one draft pick, DeMar DeRozan on Friday...

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo with Raptor number one draft pick, DeMar DeRozan on Friday in Toronto. (Dave Thomas/SUN MEDIA)

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo felt it necessary to qualify his comments from draft night when he invoked the Vince Carter comparison on newest Raptor DeMar DeRozan.

It seems the GM didn't intend to compare the two or, more accurately, drop undue pressure on to a 19-year-old kid. He simply was pointing out that, from an athletic standpoint, DeRozan brings a lot of the same tools that Carter once did.

DeRozan, himself, felt no such need to make any qualifications.

In fact, DeRozan -- the 6-foot-7 swingman selected No. 9 overall in Thursday's NBA draft, and as polished and mature as any teenager thrust into the sporting spotlight as you are apt to find these days -- not only didn't back away from the Carter comparison, he threw a few even bigger names into the mix.

DEAD SERIOUS

Asked yesterday at the Air Canada Centre if, during his one season at USC, he had come across anyone in the Pac 10 as physically and naturally gifted as himself, DeRozan replied with a dead serious: "No."

Asked, after the cameras were off, if he ever had come across anyone, in any of his basketball travels, who could match his prodigious athletic ability, DeRozan smiled quickly and finally conceded that there was that guy in Ohio, whose camp he attended last year, who was pretty good. His name was LeBron something or other.

Even at such a young age, DeRozan seems to have crossed paths with a lot of the NBA's current superstars. He is also a three-time veteran of Kobe Bryant's summer camp. And, although he counts both as his co-favourite players, DeRozan considers Bryant, not James, the best player in the game today.

"He will take your heart out and stomp on it, then look back on it and laugh," DeRozan said quite seriously. "That's what I got from Kobe, his killer instinct. Once you see that, you just want to take your game to another level."

Bryant apparently was more than willing to show his campers that side of his game but, as for any trade secrets, DeRozan said those weren't exactly forthcoming.

"I don't think he will share his secrets until he is retired," DeRozan said. "You just have to try to pick his brain."

As important as all the athletic talent and confidence that DeRozan brings and all the lessons he learned from the who's who of the NBA, the fact that he targeted Toronto as a preferred destination may prove to be just as pivotal as he attempts to make the jump from college freshman to the pros.

Toronto is not DeRozan's consolation prize. It was his first choice.

He views Toronto as a perfect fit for his talents and not even the cold winters that he has heard so much about, have discouraged him from opening his arms to his newly adopted city.

"I feel like I am in the best situation I could be," DeRozan said. "At this point, I feel there was no better city to go to. Toronto is a unique city. A lot of people underestimate it. They don't know how beautiful it is and the type of atmosphere it has. That's why I'm glad to be a part of this."

SPECIFIC GOAL

This is not your typical -- if there is such a thing -- teenager from Compton, Calif.

Even his college career, as short as it was, was approached with the specific goal of preparing him for the next level.

"I knew, coming into college, that it was going to be a key transition, so I was going to take a different approach and learn stuff that a college player doesn't normally learn, like setting myself up on defence in order to get more rebounds, doing the little things," DeRozan said. "That's what I did game after game and you can see by my progress that it all came together at the end of the season.

The numbers -- 13.9 points per game, 52.3% shooting from the field and 5.7 rebounds a game -- while solid, weren't exactly Vince-like for lack of a better comparison. But, by all accounts, they were exactly what DeRozan felt was necessary at that stage in his development.

In his final seven games at USC, DeRozan averaged 19.1 points a game and was named MVP of the Pac 10 tournament.

Heading into the pros, DeRozan knows there is still plenty of room for improvement -- "I am not half the player I want to be," he says -- but he is confident that he has set himself up as well as he could have for a long and productive NBA career.

But more than anything else, what seems to give DeRozan the most satisfaction about his new lot in life, is that it will ensure his mom, who was diagnosed with lupus six years ago, and his father Frank, who has put his work as an independent film maker on hold to care for his wife, will be comfortable for the rest of their lives.

"I just want to put her in the best comfortable situation home-wise and getting her the best possible medical care," he said. "Seeing my mom like that, not being able to do stuff because she's in pain. It was tough. That's one thing that definitely pushed me."

But that desire to help his family was not his sole reason for declaring for the draft after just one year of college.

"The other factor was that I felt I was mentally ready," he said.

"I felt I had grown as a man and as a player and I felt I was ready to make that move."

That is what Colangelo and head coach Jay Triano saw five weeks ago in Oakland. And that is why DeMar DeRozan is a Toronto Raptor today.

MIKE.GANTER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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