Nearly the entire Raptors team surprised a middle school basketball tourney

Feb 14 2023, 3:13 pm

The Toronto Raptors gave a group of middle schoolers the shock of their lives on Monday afternoon.

At a tournament hosted by MLSE at their Launchpad facility located at Jarvis and Dundas, nearly every player on the Raptors’ roster pulled up to check out the end of the TCDSB South Region Girls Basketball Championships for grades 7 and 8 girls, before leading the eight teams at the event in a clinic.

Competing in the tournament were students from St. John, Our Lady of Lourdes, Holy Name, St. Anthony, St. Clare, St. Helen, St. John XXlll, and St. Pius X.

Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., O.G Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Jakob Poeltl, Joe Wieskamp, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, Juancho Hernangomez, and Thad Young came out to participate, as did the notorious “The Raptor” mascot.

Each of the middle school players rotated through a series of stations, where they’d have the chance to have an in-classroom session about empowering women and girls in sport, a photobooth session where they’d be able to take some photos with the players, as well as a series of on-court games and drills with the players.

“I’m learning some cool things here today about just statistics of women and young girls in sports and just the challenges that they’re up against. I just want to be here and be strong allies for them and just continue to push their game because we want them to have the same opportunities everybody else has,” VanVleet said. “First and foremost, I did a lot of listening. And then when I did speak, it was from a place of encouragement.”

And for the players, it seemed to be as fulfilling a day as possible as they could get away from the 82-game NBA schedule.

“We’re so used to being in arenas and you get in that cycle so much of just [seeing] the fans that come to the game, but you forget there’s probably 100 times more fans that never get to see a game or never get to meet us up close and personal,” VanVleet added. “So you can see some of the faces and some of the reactions of the young girls who are just really happy to see us and the whole group is just telling us how much they look up to us.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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