New Raptor OG Anunoby hungry to get to work

Raptors draft pick OG Anunoby is not lacking in confidence, but recognizes the areas in which he needs to improve.

23rd pick eager to prove wrong the teams that passed him over

Raptors draft pick OG Anunoby shows off his jersey Friday in Toronto. (Chicco Nacion/CBC)

After being drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the 23rd pick in Thursday's NBA draft, OG Anunoby said he was going to celebrate by getting a slice of cheesecake.

In fact, if he could be someone else for a day, he says it would be chef Guy Fieri.

While it sounds like the latest member of the Raptors has a love for food, perhaps nothing satisfies his appetite more than silencing his critics.

"I always carried a chip on my shoulder to prove I was better than people thought," Anunoby said after being introduced to Toronto media on Friday.

OG Anunoby with the Indiana Hoosiers in January. ( Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
​Going into college, Anunoby wasn't highly recruited until Indiana University head coach Tom Crean saw him play at a tournament in Atlanta and signed him.

The 19-year-old was flourishing in his second year as a Hoosier before tearing his ACL in January.

Once projected as a lottery pick, Anunoby's stock dropped and the Raptors were the beneficiary.

But don't think for a second he's forgotten about it.

"Of course, [I want to] make them regret it," said Anunoby of the teams that passed him over.

Had it not been for the injury, the Jefferson City, Mo., native believes he could've been a top five draft pick.

Defensive versatility

Scouts have raved about his defensive versatility. Anunoby stands six-foot-eight but has the lateral quickness to guard perimeter players and the seven-foot-two wingspan to challenge any shot.

"I could do it in high school, I could do it in college, I think I could still do it now. I think I'm athletic enough, strong enough, and smart enough to defend every position," Anunoby said.

He is another example of what the modern NBA is heading toward — smaller centres who can guard multiple positions.

Canadian Jamal Murray got a taste of the defensive tenacity Anunoby brings to the table.

The pair met in the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament, where Anunoby's Hoosiers took down Murray and his Kentucky Wildcats.

While Murray scored 16 points, he managed only five when guarded by Anunoby.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey described his newest weapon as a P.J. Tucker clone.

Anunoby takes a lot of pride in being a defensive stopper just like the 32-year-old Raptor and enjoys doing the dirty work that comes along with it.

"Guarding the perimeter, getting steals and blocks, I love that. But I enjoy getting through ball screens," said Anunoby.

It's been a long road to the NBA for Anunoby, who was born in London, England.

He was only four when his family moved to the United States, where Anunoby would go on to refine his game.

Without his family, Anunoby knows that his dreams of playing pro basketball would be nothing but that.

His father, OG Anunoby Sr., grew up in Nigeria where soccer was most children's first love.

But after seeing his son's passion for basketball, he warmed up to the idea.

"At first he wanted me to play soccer. But once I started getting good at basketball, he supported me in that just like he supported my brother in football so just them being supportive helped a lot," Anunoby said.

And perhaps it's only fitting that Anunoby ended up in Toronto. He says he always felt a connection to the club's front office.

"It was a family environment. They really cared about me, my whole family, and they really believed in me and thought I could be something special," Anunoby said.

Brother Chigbo plays for NFL's Browns

His older brother, Chigbo, a defensive tackle for the NFL's Cleveland Browns, has told him to remain focused and to continue working hard.

Anunoby knows he has a lot to learn before reaching his full potential.

"He's just raw offensively," said ESPN draft guru Jay Bilas during a conference call earlier this week. "The injury is the biggest issue to me and then just how good you think he can be offensively. Is he going to come around and be an excellent all-around player? I think he's very valuable just for the fact that he can come in and be a really tall, long versatile defender." 

Dallas Mavericks guard and college teammate Yogi Ferrell taught Anunoby the importance of studying game film and he is fully aware of some of the holes in his game like his jump shot mechanics.

"Working on the form, keep it consistent, and just getting reps. Sometimes I rush it a little bit, that's the main thing," Anunoby said.

He's excited to work with DeMar DeRozan and feels that they can help each other become better players.

Even after some celebratory cheesecake, Anunoby is hungry to take that next step.


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