Weems worthy

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

Sonny Weems is beginning to assert himself, in part because he has been given an opportunity to start.

How long the new-found role lasts is up in the air, but there's no denying the fact that Weems has become a revelation in Raptorland.

The Raptors knew they had a super-athletic swingman when they acquired Weems and Amir Johnson in an off-season deal with Milwaukee involving Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino.

They knew Weems could run the floor, defend the perimeter and finish when an alley-oop pass was heaved toward the rim.

And they also knew that Weems had to work on his jump shot. But little did the Raptors know just how explosive Weems could be on the team's deep roster.

In Friday's pre-season game against the host Minnesota Timberwolves, Weems was given his first chance to start at the NBA level.

Even under the backdrop of exhibition play, the night's significance wasn't lost on Weems, who scored 11 points in Toronto's 112-97 win, the Raptors' first in the pre-season.

"I was really, really excited," Weems beamed following yesterday's workout at the team's Air Canada Centre practice facility. "I am very, very grateful to coach (Jay) Triano for giving me the opportunity and all I wanted to do was take full advantage of it.

"I wasn't given a chance to prove what I could do last year. The confidence coach Triano showed in me and the confidence my teammates showed means a lot."

Weems is by no means a lock to start when the games count, beginning on Oct. 28, because he's a long shot at best.

No pun intended, but sunny days await Weems, who comes across as a very engaging hoopster and one who is very coachable.

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Weems spent most of his time last season in the D-League and played very sparingly with the Denver Nuggets, who triggered a very hectic off-season period when they traded him to Milwaukee.

Weems bears a striking resemblance to ex-Raptors swingman Joey Graham, but the former has more length and appears to be even more athletic.

Not since the days of Vince Carter have the Raptors featured a player capable of getting off the floor quite like Weems. And with so much to work on his game, Weems is just beginning to scratch the surface. He'll get another chance to impress when the Raps play host to the Washington Wizards this afternoon.

Triano has decided to keep Weems in the starting lineup.

The coach admits he has yet to draw up a play for Weems, whose 11.0 scoring average ranks second in the pre-season behind Andrea Bargnani (16.3). Weems has made 15 of 30 attempts from the field in three pre-season games and has committed but one turnover.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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