‘Pressure is excitement for me:’ Raptors rookie Gradey Dick welcomes the spotlight

TORONTO – Gradey Dick doesn’t shy away from the spotlight.

Rather than lay low before training camp, the 19-year-old Toronto Raptors’ 2023 first-round draft pick continues to win over the NBA team’s fanbase with his social media presence and public appearances.

On Friday, he was front and centre among the 250 youngsters at the organization’s annual summer academy at Humber College.

“Pressure is excitement for me,” said Dick, who played one year at the University of Kansas before declaring for the 2023 NBA draft.

“Being a hometown kid and playing for (Kansas), everyone asked if there would be pressure, but I just said it would be exciting.

“People are excited for me (in Toronto), and I love that. It will be exciting playing here, and the social media side is all fun too. It’s just fun all the way around.”

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Dick exhibited his fun side when he stepped onto the draft stage at the Barclays Center stage in Brooklyn as the 13th overall selection on June 22, wearing a red-sequined jacket.

The six-foot-eight swingman explained the outfit was a tribute to Kansas’s most famous fictional character, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and her red shoes.

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With Raptors training camp two months away, Dick will be busy finding a place to live downtown. He also plans to attend Caribana festivities next weekend.

Oh, and he won’t be afraid to join in and dance.

“Reggae is one of my favourite genres, and they were saying this is a mash of all the different genres,” Dick said. “I’m looking forward to it. You get some reggae music, and I will be out there on the street.”

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Attending the 18th Raptors Academy reminded Dick of his youth, when he participated in a similar summer camp at Wichita State University.

Former Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who left this summer as a free agent to sign with the Houston Rockets, was a significant player for the Shockers in those days.

“I remember seeing (VanVleet) for the first time then,” Dick said. “That team also had (former New York Knicks guard) Ron Baker. Wichita State was a really good team. I remember that really well.”

As part of his duties with the campers, Dick was a guest referee for a kids’ scrimmage. He admitted a reluctance to call fouls.

“I swallowed my whistle a bit,” he confessed, adding the most frequent question the young campers asked him was his height.

Dick is two weeks removed from playing for the Raptors at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, won by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors finished with a 1-4 record.

Dick appeared in four games with averages of 16 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals. He also checked in with a 29.6 per cent shooting percentage from beyond the three-point arc.

The Raptors hope Dick will provide a more reliable three-point shooting option after enduring the third-worst three-point shooting percentage last season at 33.5.

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“It was amazing. My family, my parents were there,” said Dick when asked about his summer league experience. “It was cool to get back on the floor because the last time I competed was (for Kansas in the NCAA’s) March Madness. It was good getting to know the coaches and meet everybody for the first time.”

Dick said the experience was valuable to get a taste of the professional game.

“I felt more comfortable along the way,” he said.

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