Training camp began today for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, but players weren’t practicing on their home court at the Air Canada Centre, instead they worked through drills at the University of Victoria.
The team is holding a four-day training camp in Victoria before jetting off to Hawaii for two preseason games against the LA Clippers early next month.
“I love coming out here,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. “We really represent the country of Canada and we understand that we have a lot of places to touch, a lot of people to touch, and I think it’s great for the organization to come out here and touch fans and touch people and give them the chance to see us up close and personal.”
READ MORE: NBA coming to Victoria in September
This was the fourth consecutive year the team has held its training camp in the province.
Coach Dwane Casey said it’s been a good first day for his players, with some very competitive practices taking place on Tuesday.
“It’s an honour to visit a different part of Canada and prepare for our season in the first-class facilities at the University of Victoria,” said Casey last month, when the training camp schedule was first announced. “We are extremely proud being Canada’s only NBA franchise. Our players and staff feel enthusiasm for basketball in every city we have visited. We don’t ever want to take that for granted.”
Canadian National Team player and Raptors forward Kyle Wiltjer is hoping to crack the squad this season. The son of former UVic Vikes standout Greg Wiltjer was born in Oregon but enjoys dual citizenship and helped the national team to a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. This followed an illustrious college career that began with a National Championship at Kentucky in 2012 before transferring to finish his college career at basketball powerhouse Gonzaga.
“There’s just a buzz around Canada right now — a lot of young players coming out. And when you have a lot of young talent, it creates opportunities,” said Wiltjer, who noted his only focus right now is on the Raptors.
READ MORE: Tickets to Raptors game sell out in minutes
Twenty players have been invited to camp, but only a maximum of 15 players can be part of an NBA roster (13 of which can be active each game).
The team’s intra-squad game goes Thursday night at UVic’s Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA). The facility will seat 2,300 for the game. Tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes leaving many basketball fans scouring the secondary ticket market. UVic has since announced that standing room only tickets will be available for fans beginning at 5:30 p.m. ahead of the game’s 7 p.m. start.
Proceeds from the game will support the local Golf for Kids Charity Classic, which directly supports a number of charities including the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.