Toumani Camara (pronounced too-MAH-nee cuh-MAR-uh) is getting comfortable with his new surroundings at the Phoenix Suns practice facility.
On a. Very fine.
“I’ve heard it’s pretty new, too,” Camara said of the $45 million facility, which opened in the fall of 2020. “It screams NBA all over the place. With people taking care of you, whether it’s food, whether it’s treatment, if it’s just the support system. I think it’s huge for where I’m coming from in college. It’s surreal.”
Camara is in Phoenix after the Suns used their only pick in the 2023 NBA Draft to pick him 52nd.n.d collected last week.
The 6-8, 220-pound forward from Dayton is in the early stages of working toward an opportunity to play a key role this season for a championship contender with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Deandre Ayton.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Camara said. “I’ve never met those guys. To be able to play with them, great talents like that, I feel like it can help me so much with my game and being able to compete against them every day. Being able to being in the gym and analyzing those guys and really picking their game. It’s exciting. My game is blossoming, just being able to be around those guys with confidence.”
Camara looks set to play in next month’s NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
“They’re really just asking me to be who I am, which is to play hard, play with a lot of energy,” Camara said during Tuesday’s media availability when asked what his role will be with the Suns this coming season.
“Be a defensive guy and rebound at a high level and then make open shots and stay true to my game and try to expand on that throughout my career. I think that’s who they want me to be right now. Stay true to myself.”
Camara will wear No. 20 after wearing No. 2 at Dayton.
“None. 2, that’s my nickname too and I feel like it’s No. 2 with a zero next to it,” said a smiling Camara. “It still looks like No. 2.”
Camara, 23, said he worked out for the Celtics, Spurs, Jazz, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, Blazers, Mavericks, Thunder, Pacers, Hornets, Hawks, Warriors, Suns, Kings and Pelicans entering the draft.
“I worked out with a lot of teams,” said Camara, who worked out for the Suns two weeks ago. “I did a good job at this practice here. I really had no idea (who was going to draft him).
Camara didn’t find out the Suns were going to sign him until a few minutes before it happened.
“My agent got the call,” Camara said.
Camara was at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, for last Thursday’s draft. After hearing NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum call his name, Camara, wearing a gray suit and with family in attendance, made the trip from the stands to the floor, donned the purple Phoenix hat and experienced a dream come true.
“It didn’t feel right at the moment,” Camara said. “Just walking down those steps, shaking his hand and everything, putting the hat on. Something I’ve dreamed about since I was seven. To be able to achieve that, especially in front of my mom and my brother, meant the world to me. It was a crazy moment.”
There appeared to be some confusion on ESPN and on social media as to whether the pick belonged to the Suns or the Wizards when Phoenix traded six second-round picks to Washington in the Beal deal.
This year’s election was not part of the deal.
Camara did not sense that noise. He only heard his name called.
“I was so in the zone that I was locked in,” Camara said. “It was a dream. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t feel right. Everything was like a blur until I walked on that stage.”
Camara averaged a career-high 13.9 points in his senior season at Dayton, led the Atlantic 10 in rebounding with 8.6 boards per game. game and earned first-team all-conference honors, but his defensive ability is what could lead to him getting playing time early with the Suns.
“His athleticism, mobility and his quickness stood out,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant, who coached Knicks big Obi Toppin, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, in Dayton.
From Belgium, Camara moved to Dayton after spending his first two collegiate years at Georgia, where he played his freshman year with Timberwolves All-Star Anthony Edwards, the top overall pick in the 2020 draft.
“Maybe (Camara) never really saw himself as a versatile defender that we felt he was capable of being, but we put him in some positions that magnified that and he embraced it and really adopted it, ” Grant continued. “So offensively, just understanding how to be good at what he was already good at.”
Camara was the only player in the conference to finish in the top 20 in steals (42) and blocks (28). He led the Flyers in steals and was second in blocks.
“At Dayton, we pushed a lot, especially my first year, and I was at the top of the press,” Camara said. “Being able to guard the guards and trap. Also has tough matchups on shorter shifts or sometimes the biggest guy. Just being able to guard the best matchup, I feel like (Grant) had a lot of confidence in me and I was able to put myself in situations where I could hold my own.”
Playing his high school ball at Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Fla., Camara didn’t really take pride in playing defense until he arrived in Dayton.
“I already loved playing defense, but I felt like maybe I took some plays away and I wasn’t fully involved in it all the time,” Camara said. “(Grant) really helped me hang my hat on it and be focused on defense the whole time.”
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