Raptor has bigger mountain to climb

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:42 PM ET

VANCOUVER — Joey Dorsey defied all odds, all logic, every conventional form wisdom and would later acknowledge the magnitude of his feat.

Feel-good stories often emerge in training camp, regardless of the sport, players rising to the surface who compel you to take notice and support.

For the Raptors, it’s Dorsey, a hard worker who has waited patiently for an opportunity, pining to make an impression and earn his spot on a roster.

Few people would dare climb Grouse Mountain in the morning, regroup following the experience and then practise in a setting that demands high intensity and constant movement.

Dorsey did it, debunking head coach Jay Triano, who is very familiar with the area and the physical toll an assault on Grouse Mountain presents.

“We climbed it at 6:30 in the morning,’’ began Dorsey. “Some of the coaches, front-office staff did it and it was by far the biggest challenge of my life.

“Just climbing that mountain and using my hands. When I began, I was wearing a sweat suit and in that final minute of climbing the mountain, I was so sweaty that I had to disrobe to my tights and T-shirt. It was crazy. I taped it on the phone while I was walking.”

Metaphorically, Dorsey’s attempt to crack the Raptors would be akin to scaling Mount Everest. That’s how daunting the odds would appear, but he’s up for the challenge and his performance in Wednesday’s 129-78 pasting of the Phoenix Suns had to leave an impression on Toronto’s brass.

Mind you, it was a pre-season game against an uninterested and tired Suns team, but you can’t overlook the impact Dorsey had on the game when he stepped onto the floor.

He was Reggie Evans, active and assertive, crashing the boards and relentless.

Linas Kleiza was by far the Raptors’ most polished player, a small forward who began on Toronto’s starting unit and who scored 20 points in 20 minutes by taking an economical nine shots from the field.

But no player coming off the bench on either side was better than Dorsey, who abused Phoenix’s second unit in a rebounding display that had to turn heads.

“I couldn’t believe how well I played,’’ Dorsey admitted. “I mean, I actually surprised myself. I just felt so great out there, being able to play again and I’m so determined to make this team because I feel such a connect with these guys.”

Toronto represents Dorsey’s third team at the NBA level, but it’s perhaps the first time he’ll have a legitimate chance to stick around.

An undersized power forward, Dorsey doesn’t get plays called for him, but he’s so active that no player can stand in his way.

Dorsey hauled down a game-high 10 rebounds, went to the line a team-high nine times and led all reserves by posting a 13-point night.

There are no guarantees that Dorsey will be on the opening-night roster, but nothing is being guaranteed with these new-look Raptors and he’s excited about the potential such a situation presents.

Dorsey, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson have formed a strong bond, a group of young and energetic players who aren’t exactly the most talented, but play with a boundless energy that’s contagious.

Dorsey has a relationship with Jarrett Jack and likens this group to the one he played in college at Memphis, where Derrick Rose was the dominant personality.

“This is like a college team because we’re so young, athletic and energetic,’’ added Dorsey. “I’ve been waiting for this moment and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this team.”

And you pull for a guy like Dorsey, whom fans will love in Toronto because he makes the most of what he has, over-achieves in the face of so many doubters and obstacles.

His climb up Grouse Mountain is the lasting memory the Raptors will have of their week-long stay in Vancouver, an inspiring foray that left many of his teammates awe-struck.

“We had a dinner boat for team bonding where I told coach I wanted to climb that mountain,’’ continued Dorsey.

“I asked him if he thought I could climb it and he said no way. So I told him: ‘Coach, I can do it.’

“I wanted to go out and prove him wrong. Then I go out and practise. And then I have this kind of a game.”

Dorsey’s feel-good story will incomplete if he doesn’t make the team.

Here’s hoping he does, because he represents a passion that is only oozed from players who have been given nothing and have been told for years that they weren’t good enough to be regulars on an NBA team.


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