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Toronto Raptors shoot hoops at Falstaff Community Centre with aspiring players

ABOVE: Raptors shoot hoops with aspiring players at Toronto community centre

A pair of Toronto Raptors took the court this morning but it wasn’t at the Scotiabank Arena — it was at the Falstaff Community Centre in North York.

Terence Davis II and Matt Thomas participated in a special basketball clinic with dozens of aspiring players.

“Basketball teaches a lot of life lessons, you know it has for me. I have done a lot of clinics when I was a kid and you build a lot of friendships, a lot of relationships, and like I said, you learn a lot of things that carry over in all aspects of life,” explains Thomas, a shooting guard.

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The clinic was held at the newly-refurbished basketball court, which is part of the organizations’ “Welcome Toronto” initiative, part of a $1 million multi-year pledge to refresh local community basketball courts.

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“This organization is more than just a basketball game, we care about kids, we care about others,” adds Davis, also a shooting guard for the Raptors. “Basketball in Canada is really up and coming, this doesn’t do anything but add to it.”

The energy in the room was infectious, the smiles contagious and the lessons learned on the court, lifelong.

“When they walked in I thought it was a dream, it was insane to see them and, like, how they’ve grown so much, it was amazing,” smiled Toby Fournier, a teen at the centre.

It was an event that brought the community together despite a violent summer, a rash of gun violence that led to the death of a 16-year-old boy back in August. Hanad Abdullahi was gunned down in broad daylight, killed in a high rise at 30 Falstaff Ave. in August.

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READ MORE: Mother calls for change after 16-year-old son killed in Toronto apartment building

In the wake of his death, Toronto Housing upgraded lighting, installed licence plate recognition and police are conducting a safety audit. But behind the scenes, at events like this one, it’s hoped these kids learn some valuable lessons that can be used both on and off the court.

“Hopefully our energy rubs off on them and they learn something and we’re just here to help them and hopefully they can have a happy day and enjoy this,” added Thomas.

Mayor Tory also explained the city would like to replace the community centre.

“It’s going to be built in about five years, they’re going to build a brand new community centre here and it’s going to be fantastic,” explained Tory.

All of the kids in attendance were given free tickets to a Raptors game against the New York Knicks later this month.