DeMar DeRozan’s first experience as a child at a basketball camp was much different from what was going on this week at the Langley Events Centre.
DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, Calif., remembers the camp having about 80 or so participants. And there was definitely no NBA star headlining the camp.
The Toronto Raptors star guard was talking to the media on Wednesday morning, stepping away from the jammed-pack basketball courts at the LEC, site of the DeMar Derozan Basketball Camp.
Three hundred and fifty campers, boys and girls ages six to 16, signed up for the four-day camp, which wraps up Friday (Aug. 11).
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, as well as local high school coaches, university and high school players were among the coaches assisting DeRozan.
Each camper also got to meet the Raptors guard and get their photo taken with him.
“(The turnout) has been great, more than I could have imagined, especially considering it is my first camp here,” he said.
“It is great to see these kids — still in Canada, but on the other side of Canada — going out there and having a lot of fun.”
DeRozan is coming off the best year of his seven-year career, averaging 27.3 points — which was fifth in the NBA — 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He also became Toronto’s all-time leading scorer.
DeRozan said seeing the support the team receives nation-wide reinforces the Raptors’ slogan ‘We the North.’
“It has always been exciting for me just to see different parts of Canada, just to experience the love that we get,” he said.
Last year, the team played an exhibition game at Rogers Arena, to a sold-out crowd.
“It was like a playoff game, just the intensity for a pre-season game, how loud the crowd was; it was crazy,” DeRozan said.
“You see why this city had an NBA team and should have an NBA team.
“To have a country behind us is great (and) today is a reason why it makes it so beautiful.”
DeRozan and his Raptors teammates will be back in B.C. next month as they hold training camp at the University of Victoria.