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Raptors use 19th pick in NBA Draft to select G Walter


TORONTO — Ja'Kobe Walter has never been to Canada, but when he arrives in Toronto he wants to make an immediate impact.

Walter was drafted 19th overall by the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA Draft on Wednesday. The six-foot-five, 195-pound guard from McKinney, Texas, said he had high expectations when he joins his new team.

"I'm just trying to make an immediate impact in any way I can," said Walter in a video conference from the draft floor in New York City. "Whatever they need me to do coming in, I'm gonna do it for them and really just try to bring that winning intensity."

Walter averaged 14.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists as a freshman for the Baylor Bears last season. He said he hoped to seamlessly blend with the Raptors young core of Scottie Barnes, Immanuel Quickley, and RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont.

"I've watched all of them play college-wise and in the NBA," said Walter, who did not work out for the Raptors before getting drafted by the team. "Scottie is a big personality guy, you know what he brings to the team: all the energy. RJ same with him, he can score the ball very well and then Quickley is just a great point guard.

"I think I'm going to fitting in well with them and I'm super excited."

Raptors general manager Bobby Webster addressed media at the OVO Athletic Centre in Toronto's west end after the first round was complete. He said Walter impressed because he's so well-rounded.

"Always been a winner, tough, fits the mould of a two-way Raptors player. He can make a shot, can play defence," said Webster. "He's a guy we followed for a while but we didn't necessarily think he'd be there at No. 19. So, we feel great."

For his part, Walter thought he brings another quality to the court.

"I'm just focusing more on my shot creation," he said. "I think a lot of people forget that I can score the ball very well. So I say that part of my game is what I'm trying to show."

Walter's first name Ja'Kobe — pronounced juh-KOH'-bee — is a combination of the names of all-time greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The 19-year-old laughed that given his name it was preordained that he would eventually be drafted to the NBA.

"Me and my family talked about this for a long time. I prayed so many times for just this moment, right here," said Walter. "So now that it's finally here, it's just dreams into reality and I'm just grateful."

Toronto also has the first pick of the second round, No. 31 overall. For the first time in NBA Draft history, the second round is on a different day than the first.

The selection process will resume on Thursday afternoon, giving teams time to process how the first round went and what they can do in the second.

"We'll probably have some pretty big fights tomorrow in the morning about who we would take and then simultaneously take calls (from other teams) and say 'OK, can we get multiple picks? Can we move back a little bit and still get the same guy?'" said Webster. "It's a bit of a novelty for all of us here to have two days of the draft and see what happens."

France's Zaccharie Risacher was picked first overall by the Atlanta Hawks.

Zach Edey was selected ninth overall in the NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. The 22-year-old centre from Toronto was the first Canadian to be drafted this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.