The Toronto Raptors haven't sent a rookie shooting guard onto the court in their starting lineup since the days of Vince Carter, but after spending the ninth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft on USC's athletic swingman DeMar DeRozan, that streak may be coming to an end.
With this training camp barely underway, DeRozan is already getting compared to the man who used to bring crowds to their feet at the Air Canada Centre, earning him a similar nickname with a slight variation, "Heir Canada," as in the heir to the throne.
"Its a great deal because they called Vince that and everything, but I'm just trying to come here and make my own name for myself and keep going," said an optimistic DeRozan.
Canada's only NBA club has struggled in recent years to get consistent play at the 2 and 3 spots. In DeRozan, they hope they have found the player who can fill that void, but head coach Jay Triano doesn't plan on handing the rookie anything.
"We've got guys out here competing and I'm not going to give it to him," Triano proclaimed. "In an ideal world I'd like to start him, to give him minutes and let him grow as a player with the starting unit, but not at the expense of someone who outworks him throughout this training camp and throughout the pre-season. It may be a position that we jockey for a little while until we find the right combination."
"He's picked things up well but it's a different world to him compared to playing at the university level," added Triano.
DeRozan is doing his part already in camp to make an early impression on his new coaching staff in Toronto. Since the draft in June, he has focused on preparing his body for the rigours of a full NBA season by adding 10 pounds to his 6'7"-frame. The now 220-pounder has also been working on his jump shot, in an attempt to improve his perimeter game, to go along with the explosive first step he already possesses.
While it was DeRozan's raw talent caught the eye of scouts, it's his work ethic that has garnered attention from those in the organization.
"There's a lot of things that happen on the court that aren't necessarily the prolific play," explained the man who selected DeRozan in the draft, general manager Bryan Colangelo. "I love his patience right now. I really love his approach to things and I think that's going to be the thing that gives him the best opportunity to make his mark."
"Some guys come in very quickly, they're trying to prove too much, they're making mistakes and they find themselves on the bench very quickly because the coach loses confidence in you. In this case I think it's going to be a subtle approach on his part to come in and grow slowly," said Colangelo.
The initial goal for DeRozan will be to follow Carter's lead, not only in earning a spot in the Raps' starting lineup, but also in aiming to be a candidate for the NBA's slam dunk competition held during All-Star weekend.
His high flying resume can be found in a variety of Youtube videos, but fans are waiting in anticipation to see him make his case in a Raptors' uniform and exorcise the ghost of Vince Carter from the ACC once and for all.
- with files from TSN Reporter James Cybulski