If you get to the Air Canada Centre an hour before game time, there’s a chance you will get to see the former All-Star and one-time Raptors center Jamaal Magloire putting the sophomore Jonas Valanciunas through his paces. Station to station around the basket, Valanciunas tries to score on Magloire using face-ups and post moves for layups or a sweeping hook shot and it isn’t easy. Magloire isn’t out there to pump Valanciunas’ tires, he’s out there to teach and the retired big man still looks like he could give an NBA team 10 minutes of solid post defense.
“Jamaal, he gives me a lot,” Valanciunas said. “It is good to go against him because he’s physical, really strong and he’s a veteran. He knows how to defend me, so it is best to practice against him because it is really hard.”
Valanciunas is fortunate to have a recently retired NBA center to work out against. Film and knowledgeable coaches are one thing, but going up against another big man that had to use every trick in the book to extend his career less than 2 seasons ago is something else entirely.
“Film is very important,” Magloire said. “It is good to watch your individual performance night in and night out, but being on the court is a different feel and some people retain information better doing it than watching it. There is not one secret that I have or have learned that I don’t try to pass on.”
Magloire has a unique perspective on Valanciunas’ progress since his rookie season. Magloire can feel the young big man’s progress up close and personal on the court as they bang for position in a way that cannot be determined from watching Valanciunas play in games.
“I have definitely seen him make strides,” Magloire said. “I have seen him get stronger physically. I’ve seen him do things he didn’t do last year. I think he is a little bit more diligent, his time management off the court is much better obviously now that he has his first year is out of the way. He hit a little lull, but everyone does. In 82 games you are going to have peaks and valleys and with those 4 days we had off, he should be okay going into the home stretch.”
Dealing with those peaks and valleys is something Magloire can help with as well. As a veteran, Magloire has been there before and worked through the same problems every young player encounters at various points in their professional career. Experience counts and Valanciunas can believe Magloire knows what he is talking about.
“It’s just experience, just a feel for the game, I played in the NBA for a long time and I put myself in his position,” Magloire said. “I look at all these guys like they are my little brothers and we don’t want to do anything that is going to negate their progress, so we are always conscious of what we do and when we do it.
“We monitor how we work him out. The intensity, the length of time, so we don’t kill him as far as his legs, we just continue to talk to him, to be positive, put ice on his feet and rejuvenate him any which way we can and lots of rest.”
Now that he is most of the way through his second NBA season, expectations are changing for Valanciunas. Repeated rookie mistakes are less acceptable and the most important thing for Valanciunas is to do things right the first time his coaches point it out.
“I think not making the same mistakes twice (is most important),” Magloire explained. “Once Coach Casey says something to him or one of the assistants say something to him, (he needs to) grasp it, try to rectify it and make sure he doesn’t do the same thing (wrong) twice because that’s frustrating for everybody, for the coaches as well as him when he sees that there’s an easier way or a better technique to do things.”
There should be no doubt having Magloire around has been good for Valanciunas, as a mentor and a teacher. A North American trained veteran center to help the Raptors budding European star to learn the nuances of the NBA game and Magloire is ecstatic about the opportunity as well. Watch the veteran big man working out the young center and you’ll see a guy who loves his job.
“Coming from Europe, the style of basketball is different altogether, so he has to be more fundamentally sound and more conscious of what’s going on,” Magloire said. “I am ecstatic. I am very humbled by the fact Masai (Ujiri) has given me this opportunity, Coach Casey has given me this opportunity and I do not want to let them down.”
Against Sacramento recently, Valanciunas was practicing his face-up game against Magloire for a good half hour beforehand and in the game, he immediately went to those same moves against the big Kings frontcourt. It must have made Magloire proud to watch Valanciunas get the and-one play over DeMarcus Cousins on the contested short jumper they had just been working on.
The Raptors center of the future is in good hands.
Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Appreciates Married Life
“There are not many things to do because we have to keep the body rested and be mentally and physically ready for games, so there is not much time to do your own activities,” Valanciunas said. “That is what summer is for.”
High School Basketball Star Aquille Carr Is Back On Track
Everything didn’t go as the 5’7 high school basketball phenom Aquille Carr had hoped after he decided to forego college last spring. He has found his trip to the pros a lot tougher than he expected. “I am looking at Summer Leagues, but I am not (considering) not getting drafted,” Carr said. “We are just thinking about getting to the NBA.”
Jonas Valanciunas Photo credit: Paul Saini