'Opportunity of a lifetime'

New Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless is happy to play in a youthful environment. (QMI Agency/Stan Behal)

New Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless is happy to play in a youthful environment. (QMI Agency/Stan Behal)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

TORONTO - Jerryd Bayless has learned an awful lot about the business of professional sports just two years and 11 games into his NBA career.

The lessons began one June night back in 2008.

Despite being a standout scorer at Arizona, a four-time all-state in high school and a member of the United States junior national and under-18 teams and even though pundits universally had Bayless slotted in the 4-7 slots of the 2008 draft, he shockingly slid to the 11th selection.

As if that wasn't enough of a shock, the 6-foot-3 guard was immediately dealt by the Indiana Pacers to the Portland Trail Blazers. After markedly improving as a sophomore in the Pacific Northwest and despite a solid playoff performance for the Blazers last summer (13.8 points per game, 3.8 assists in 27.7 minutes), Bayless was shipped to the New Orleans Hornets late last month.

Now, he's a Raptor on a team short on veterans and long on youth, and he couldn't be happier.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Bayless said to a massive throng of media -- none of which appeared to have Bieber fever, unlike the young fans awaiting the ACC arrival of the pop sensation later in the day.

"It's not always this bad, Jerryd," said one scribe of the media crush to a not-at-all shell-shocked Bayless.

"Not a problem," replied the measured, well-spoken son of a forensic psychologist and a community college counsellor/ teacher.

"Playing with these young guys and growing with them is something I've wanted to do since I've been in the league," Bayless said.

"It's definitely going to be a great situation and hopefully it's a long one."

Though concerns that he was more of a combo guard than a true point largely caused his draft night slip, Bayless believes he is a point guard and is eager to learn from incumbent starter Jose Calderon.

"(Head coach Jay Triano) told me just to come out and run the team. That's what I'm going to do," Bayless said.

"I'm going to get guys in their spots, get them to do what they do well, take advantage of it. We've got a lot of athletes on this team, so we're going to try to get the ball out and run and hopefully this works."

Bayless said he has known DeMar DeRozan since they were 13 years old and therefore already has a chemistry with the high-flyer. The Phoenix native has also known Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo and his father Jerry -- both with long-standing ties to Arizona -- for years.

"It's kind of funny how it worked out, but everything happens for a reason. That's what I believe," Bayless said.

The junior Colangelo was drawn to Bayless because of his ability to score despite not possessing the silkiest of jump shots, his work ethic and his ability to stay in front of opponents.

Bayless has already played under Triano -- an assistant with the American basketball program -- and worked out for Toronto assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo when he was the head coach in Oklahoma City prior to the draft.

Bayless believes he can use his time with strong organizations (Portland is a perennial playoff team and the Hornets were 11-1 at the time of the trade) to his advantage in helping to change the fortunes of the Raptors.

"I'm with a team that's young and growing. I've been on winning teams. I can bring a little bit of the knowledge that I got from those teams and hopefully it kind of correlates and we just start doing little things," Bayless said.

"I can't be more excited (about his new beginning with the Raptors) and I can't wait to start."


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