July 19th, 2024

Raptors draft picks Ja’Kobe Walter, Jonathan Mogbo introduced to Toronto

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on June 28, 2024.

Toronto Raptors draft picks Jonathan Mogbo, left, and Ja’Kobe Walter, pose with Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri following a press conference at the OVO Athletic Centre in Toronto, Friday, June 28, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO – Years before Jonathan Mogbo was drafted by the Toronto Raptors, he got used to stopping and posing for photos with local fans.

Mogbo visited his childhood best friend Scottie Barnes in Toronto after Barnes was drafted to the Raptors. Toronto they rode scooters around the city and stopped in a convenience store for a snack.

A Raptors fan recognized Barnes and assumed that the six-foot-six Mogbo was former Toronto forward Precious Achiuwa, and asked for a photo with the two of them.

“I didn’t know if I should take the picture and (Barnes) was like, ‘bro, take the picture’ so I’m like ‘all right’ and he tried to step out of the picture and I was like, ‘No, you gotta come in and you take the picture,'” said Mogbo in an introductory news conference on Friday, a day after he was drafted 31st overall by the Raptors. “Then every time when I come back it always happens at least one-time.

“Then it finally happened, I met Precious at dinner and they told him the story and he’s like, ‘he does kind of look like me.'”

Toronto picked Baylor University swingman Ja’Kobe Walter 19th overall in the first round on Wednesday night. Then the next day the Raptors selected Mogbo, a centre out of the University of San Francisco.

Barnes, naturally, was at Mogbo’s house when the selection was announced.

“I looked around and I think I saw him crying,” said Mogbo of his old friend who he insists on calling “Scott.”

“You know, it was tears of joy. I didn’t shed a tear. I couldn’t. I had to be the strong one.”

Walter was at the Barclays Center in New York City when his name was called. He said it didn’t take long for Raptors fans to track down his social media and start following him across all platforms.

“I’ve gotten a lot of messages. Read the comments. The fan base is already insane,” said Walter during his first-ever visit to Canada. “Just knowing that it feels like a whole country behind me.

“It’s just really a blessing. I’m just really grateful for it.”

Mogbo averaged 14.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game as a centre for the University of San Francisco. He had a 63.6 field-goal percentage with the Dons and didn’t make either of his two three-point attempts.

“I feel like that’s the talk around Jonathan Mogbo in his pre-draft stuff,” said Mogbo on developing his shooting. “I’m not going to go out there and try to shoot 30 threes but I’m going to do my role well, play my hardest and be myself, that’s the most important thing.

“It all comes down to repetition and confidence. I feel like I have a great process for that, so I’m just going to stay in the gym and get right with it.”

Walter averaged 14.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists as a freshman guard for the Baylor Bears last season. He said that he’s a better shot-creator than people give him credit for.

“Obviously getting to the NBA there’s a lot of things I need to learn, the game, even more IQ wise, the speed of the game, strength,” said Walter. “There’s a lot of things I need to work on.

“I think my main focus will be just how to get off the ball and create for others.”

Walter and Mogbo weren’t the only picks the Raptors made.

Less than an hour before Mogbo was selected, Toronto struck a deal with Sacramento that sent small forward Jalen McDaniels to the Kings for point guard Davion Mitchell and power forward Sasha Vezenkov, the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft and the Portland Trailblazers’ second-round selection in the 2025 draft.

Toronto then took University of Houston guard Jamal Shead with Sacramento’s pick. In the dying minutes of the draft another deal was struck with the Minnesota Timberwolves that allowed the Raptors to take Ulrich Chomche – pronounced shom-SHAY’ – with the 57th overall pick.

Because both deals were pending league approval, Toronto could not make any of those newly acquired players available on Friday morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

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