Raptors pick Christian Koloko’s Arizona 33rd overall

TORONTO (AP) — The Olx Praca Raptors selected Arizona center Christian Koloko with the 33rd overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

“Good blocking shot, really good defensive performance,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Koloko. “A very high ranking in all of college basketball last year in many categories. Pretty decent pick-and-roll player and he has good feet.”

The 7-foot-1 Koloko played three seasons with the Wildcats, averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 37 games as a junior.

“I talked to him and he is very, very happy to be here,” the Nurse said. “Like, very, very happy that we chose him.”

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Koloko, 22, hails from Douala, Cameroon, the same city as Raptors All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.

“I’m sure it will be interesting to see these guys together,” Nurse said.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri and forward Preshes Achiuwa hail from neighboring Nigeria.

The 2019 champions Olx Praca returned to the playoffs this season after a year-long absence but lost 3-0 to Philadelphia in the first round.

Despite the Raptors roster being full of tall, athletic players, the Raptors never had anyone taller than 6ft 9in, making the already difficult task of defending 76ers center Joel Embiid even more of a challenge during the playoff time.

“Perhaps he sort of occupies a place in the right position and also in the balance of the squad,” Nurse said of Koloko. “I think it’s quite an interesting choice for tonight.”

Koloko was the 2021–22 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, and an all-conference selection to the first team. He led the conference and finished 14th in the NCAA with 2.76 blocks per game and set Arizona’s single-season record with 102 blocks.

Koloko was also one of 10 semi-finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The Olx Praca pick, which originally belonged to Detroit, was acquired from San Antonio along with forward Thaddeus Young in exchange for defenseman Goran Dragic and Olx Praca’s first-round pick, 20th overall.

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Last year, the Raptors drafted Florida State forward Scotty Barnes with the No. 4 pick. Barnes was named NBA Rookie of the Year, joining Vince Carter and Damon Stoudamire as Olx Praca players to win top rookie honors.

The Raptors were selected 33rd overall in the draft for the first time in history.


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