Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (5) grabs a rebound as Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Miami on March 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jim Rassol

New Raptor Precious Achiuwa says he will do what it takes to help Toronto win

New Raptor Precious Achiuwa says he will do what it takes to help Toronto win

Newly acquired forward Precious Achiuwa says he will do whatever it takes to help the Toronto Raptors win.

Asked what he brings to the table, the six-foot-nine 235-pounder replied: “Winning. Just a winning mentality.”

“Doing whatever it takes to win basketball games,” he added. “Rebounding. Guarding multiple positions. Creating offence for my teammates with screens, pick-and-rolls. Passing the ball. Just whatever it takes to win basketball games. Getting loose balls.

“For me, it’s all about winning.”

The 21-year-old Achiuwa spoke to reporters Monday from Las Vegas, where he had just taken part in his first practice with the Raptors’ Summer League team.

Achiuwa and veteran guard Goran Dragic were acquired in the sign-and-trade deal that sent all-star guard Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat last week.

Achiuwa averaged 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 12.1 minutes in 61 games, including four starts, with the Heat during his rookie season. He was taken in the first round (20th overall) in the 2020 NBA draft.

He sees similarities between Toronto and Miami, citing both teams’ focus on defence.

Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Achiuwa was part of the Nigerian team that finished 10th at the Tokyo Olympics. He called it a “great experience,” saying it taught him how every possession counted given the shorter international game.

He also said he takes pride in representing Nigeria and Africa.

“A lot of kids are looking up to me and for me, that’s something I carry (with) a lot of pride,” he said.

Precious is the youngest of Eunice and Donatus Achiuwa’s six children. His parents, both Pentecostal ministers, named their other sons Promise, God’sgift and God’swill and daughters Grace and Peace.

God’sgift earned a scholarship at Erie Community College in Buffalo after being scouted at a basketball camp in Nigeria. He eventually transferred to St. John’s University in New York.

Precious joined his brother in the U.S., attending eighth grade in the Bronx. As his basketball talents grew, he moved on to St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., and then Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla., before spending one year at the University of Memphis.

Achiuwa was named both the American Athletic Conference Player and Freshman of the Year after averaging 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds — along with 1.9 blocks, 1.1 steals and 1.0 assists — and 30.4 minutes in 31 games. He was the only freshman in NCAA Div. 1 ranks to average a double-double.

With a seven-foot-one wingspan, he is a good defender.

Achiuwa has said he wants to be remembered for more than basketball and looks to help others.

“I just hate to see people struggle,” he said in a 2019 interview. “So I try as much as possible in my power to change that.”

He said he plans to continue his work off the court in Toronto.

“I want to give back to the community I’m in. I’ve already started, doing something like that” he said Monday. “And definitely go back home to Nigeria and do a lot of community stuff, help out kids, help out families in need. Just provide for them whatever way I can.”

Like his older brother, Achiuwa started in soccer before switching to basketball and falling in love with the game.

“The reason I started playing basketball was I had a crazy growth spurt,” he explained.

The six-foot-three 190-pound Dragic is a 13-year NBA veteran who holds career averages of 13.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 867 regular-season games with Phoenix, Houston and Miami.

There has been speculation Dragic may yet be headed to another team.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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