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Koroko says it's perfect for Toronto

After being drafted to Toronto on Thursday, one of the first people to contact Christian Koloko was Pascal Siakam, the new Raptors teammate.

The two came from the same town of Douala in Cameroon. Both grew up playing soccer, the most popular game in their country. Koroko played a striker or goalkeeper. His favorite team is FC Barcelona and his favorite player is Lionel Messi. Neither Cameroonian played basketball seriously until his late teens.

"(Siakam) means everything," Koroko said of virtual availability from Los Angeles, which he celebrated with his family on Thursday night. "He was the first person to go to the NBA from Douala and reach that level. He is the NBA champion. He is the NBA All-Star. This year he was on one of the All-NBA teams. He just means a lot and shows that people like me can do anything.

"When (Siacam) won the MIP (NBA's Best Player of the Year Award) , I think I said everything was impossible until it was completed. That's what he's showing to the people .. .. Indeed, he means everything in the city of Douala. " Koroko said he spoke in French on the phone.

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The Raptors chose Koroko, a 7-foot-1 center from the University of Arizona, in 33rd place. Six years ago, Toronto won Siakam in 27th place in 2016.

The 22-year-old wants to experience the same ascension to the All-Star and NBA champions in his career.

"My goal is to be a longtime NBA player and a really good player in the NBA," he said. "I've been mentioned many times in the All-Stars and have the best career I can. I started playing basketball late, so I think the sky is the limit. It's going to get better."

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Koroko played high school basketball in the Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth, California. He saw the snow only once.

"When I got my first check and bought a big jacket, it would be one of my first purchases," he laughed.

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Koroko provides the Raptors with a 7-foot center for exercise, something that hasn't been around for a while. Asked if he tried to model a particular player in the game, he said he was a Kevin Durant fan from an early age and he is wearing number 35.

"But I've seen a lot of NBA games, and I'm trying to get different pieces from each player," he said. "Defensively, I see a lot of people like Rudy Gobert. How he protects the rim and how he affects defense. Many Draymond Green, he talks about defense, How to communicate, how he's like a defense captain. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people like Joel Embiid, Janice (Antetocompo), Nikola Jokić .. All of them. People, but they have different parts of the game. "

The Raptors have been putting Koroko on the radar since playing at the Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa in 2017. ..

After his name was called at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY on Thursday, Koroko told Raptors President Masai Ujiri, "Thank you for believing in me."

"It makes a lot of sense because what (Ujiri) is trying to do for basketball in Africa is huge," Koroko said. "He sees the potential of African basketball and believes in African players. I think what he's doing is really great.

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"It makes more sense to me just to be drafted by him. That means he believes in me and he sees the potential in me. And I'm trying to do everything to get it back to him. "

Nigerian-born Ujiri founded the Giants of Africa in 2003, when he was a Denver Nuggets scout. Ujiri has been the director of the NBA's Borderless Basketball Program, which promotes basketball across the African continent.

This report by Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press