Thompson gives Raptors an eye full

Brampton, Ont.'s Tristan Thompson, likely to become the highest Canadian ever drafted in the NBA,...

Brampton, Ont.'s Tristan Thompson, likely to become the highest Canadian ever drafted in the NBA, works out for the Raptors Wednesday in Toronto. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:08 AM ET

TORONTO - Tristan Thompson’s basketball journey took him home on Wednesday.

Next week, he will come full circle again in New Jersey.

Back in late 2008, Thompson, then a little shy of his current 6-foot-9 height and definitely a fair bit skinnier, left Brampton and St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J.

On Thursday, Thompson is expected to become the highest Canadian NBA draft pick (Steve Nash was selected 15th overall in 2006). Coincidentally enough, the draft will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, just minutes away from where Thompson’s basketball career first started to gain some legitimate traction.

Though it is a longshot Thompson goes fifth overall to the Raptors, he nevertheless showed his stuff at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday along with longtime teammate and Pickering native Cory Joseph.

Thompson said he tried to treat his Toronto workout like the many others he has taken part in already ahead of the draft.

“I was excited about the whole day, but at the end of the day, it’s business so you’ve got to come in and work hard and do what you do well,” Thompson said, adding he had to change his phone number to deal with some of the distractions of coming home.

“(Just) another team in the NBA you’ve got to work out for and they’re interested in you.”

Would Thompson hold a grudge if the Raptors pass on him?

“Being from Canada, playing for the Raptors would be a great opportunity,” he said.

“(But) I just want to be put in a position where I could thrive. If I’m drafted by the Raptors, I’m happy. If I’m not, no hatred, no bad blood, they did what they had to do and whoever drafts me I’ll be excited.”

Thompson averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and team-bests in blocks and double-doubles for the Texas Longhorns in his lone NCAA season. Previously, after leaving St. Benedict’s for Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., Thompson combined with Joseph to lead Findlay to a national high school championship.

Raptors senior director of scouting Jim Kelly said the Raptors have kept a close eye on Thompson for many years now and added he saw major strides in Thompson’s development during his year at Texas.

“I thought the biggest improvement in his game this year has been his physicality. He’s gotten much stronger,” Kelly said also lauding his gazelle-like ability to get up and down the court.

“For a player his size to be able to do those things right away is a major attraction.

“For his size he really runs the floor well. His offence is a developing part of his game right now ... Maybe his physicality is a little ahead of his skills right now, but we think he has a pretty good package to be an NBA player.”

Thompson seems like a poor fit on the Raptors since Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and Ed Johnson are best suited to his power forward position.

However, trades happen and Kelly seemed comfortable with the idea that Davis or Johnson and Thompson could coexist.

“Maybe,” Kelly said of such a scenario. “It takes nine or 10 players to play.

“Ed’s a bit bigger, maybe he’s a better passer, maybe Tristan’s a better rebounder. They’re similar in some regards because of their size but I think they’re both a little bit different.”

Still, don’t go out and buy your Thompson Raptors jersey yet.

“Hopefully, one day, we’re going to get a player who’s going to fit into what we need and when we can get them,” Kelly said, sounding like that day wasn’t yet at hand.

Raptors or not, Thompson’s hoop dream is a week away from becoming a reality.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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