Watching the NBA draft in 2005, I waited for my Toronto Raptors to select their second round choice, not a ton of excitement for the 41st pick, considering the odds of uncovering a hidden gem is as likely as Shaq hitting a three pointer.
This year I was ready, I’d heard of a young, exciting point guard of the future, Roko Ukic. He hadn’t been selected in the first round as anticipated and as each selection passed the closer the Toronto pick came. Rob Babcock didn’t disappoint, he made the selection I’d waited for. But with all things Babcock, it is a “good news, bad news” situation.
Roko, at six feet five inches, has been a pro since 16 years of age. He felt the prospect of sitting on an NBA bench would stall his progress. This information was enough to scare off enough GM’s looking for help in the following season. Babcock must have disagreed; this kid is worth waiting for!
January 2009, sitting in the sixth row vs. the Orlando Magic, I watched Roko penetrate at will, displaying speed and an eerie similarity to Jose Calderon, the Raptors current starting point guard. I had one complaint though, the kid had no “J”, his release looked awkward and out of rhythm. I thought his progress would take some time.
About a month later the Raptors were scheduled to meet the San Antonio Spurs, No Bosh, no Calderon, another “L” was sure to follow. Roko kept up with Tony Parker, both trading blazing speed and an ankle breaking first step. Tony definitely “out classed” his young counterpart, but Roko didn’t look out of place.
Then Roko did something out of character, he had a much improved “J”, showing the ability to hit a long range shot. With just over 20 seconds and Ukic with the ball, the Spurs couldn’t leave space to stop his vicious first step; they had to protect his shot. Roko beat his man off the dribble, dropped a “tear drop”, game over Raps win.
And the Roko Ukic era begins.