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Raptors introduce first round pick DeRozan in Toronto

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The Canadian Press
6/26/2009 2:51:04 PM
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TORONTO -- Despite being a born and raised in sunny southern California, DeMar DeRozan shrugs off any suggestion that he's unprepared for life north of the border.

"I'm not worried about it, I'm pysched," DeRozan said Friday, a day after being selected by the Toronto Raptors in the NBA draft. "It's no problem for me ... I've just got to get some bigger coats and get ready for that."

The Raptors introduced the 19-year-old swingman at a news conference Friday after taking him ninth overall in Thursday's draft.

He averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game in his only season at the University of Southern California, leading the Trojans to the Pac-10 title and picking up MVP honours for the tournament.

But with just one year at the USC under his belt, it's still unknown how quickly the six-foot-seven, 220-pounder will adapt to the NBA.

DeRozan, who will wear his preferred No. 10 in Toronto, says that one collegiate season was enough time for him to elevate his game to the NBA level.

"I used college as my growth process," he said. "I learned stuff I didn't know, how to read defence and offence, little stuff. I put all that into my game at once, bringing my whole game up. That's how I planned to assert myself going into the league."

One of DeRozan's most attractive basketball attributes -- and one of the main reasons the Raptors selected him -- is his jaw-dropping athleticism.

DeRozan first dunked the basketball when he was in Grade 6, and went on to win the 2008 slam dunk contest at the high school all-American game in Milwaukee. Now equipped with a 39-inch vertical, it's not surprising that DeRozan's explosive potential has some people comparing him to Vince Carter.

"This is DeMar DeRozan and he's going to establish himself as a player that is different than Vince," said Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo.

"He's going to establish himself as DeMar the basketball player. Those comparisons are fun to make and easy to make because of the athletic attributes, but let's see what DeMar can become as far as the best basketball player possible.

"He's got the right attitude and mentality. He's got a chance to be special, but let's do it on his own time."

Besides his pro ambitions, DeRozan has personal reasons for leaving college early. His mother Diane is suffering from lupus and DeRozan wanted to make sure she received the best care possible.

"Seeing my mom like that, not wanting to do stuff because she had pains, it's tough," says DeRozan, whose parents will stay behind in California while he settles in Toronto. "That's one of things that pushed me, wanting to make sure my mom is all right and my family is all right.

"Sometimes she can't walk, pick up heavy things, little stuff like that. It comes and goes."

DeRozan could have used some motherly guidance preparing for his first major news conference Friday. Raptors assistant GM Marc Eversley had to help DeRozan tie his tie before meeting the media.

Eversley said team will help him off the court with things like where and where not to go in the city as well as finding him a place to live.

"I felt there was no better city to go to," DeRozan said of his new home. "Toronto is a unique city. A lot of people underestimate it and (they) don't know how beautiful it is, what type of atmosphere it has.

"I'm glad to be a part of it and just want to get on the team and get moving."

Raptors' pick DeMar DeRozan (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
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