Toronto Raptors forward Ishmail Wainright is a reminder that there are many paths to achieve your ultimate goal.
Undrafted out of Baylor in 2017, Wainright tried his hand at football for a year before heading overseas to begin his professional basketball career in Germany in 2018. After two years in Germany and spending the last season in France, Wainright got his NBA opportunity, signing a two-year deal with the Raptors on Aug. 7.
FAST FACTS: Get to know Ish Wainright
In Toronto's 92-76 Summer League victory over the Houston Rockets, Wainright delivered his best performance to date, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks, all while shooting 7-for-12 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
After the game, Wainright was asked about the emotions of his journey to this point, to which he gave a moving answer.
"I do it for my kids"- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 13, 2021
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"I wanna write a book … because I've been through every emotion," Wainright began.
"It's been a journey, I don't think guys understand, playing overseas is demanding, especially this last year, it was very demanding. Probably the hardest (part) … was just being away from my family," he continued.
Wainright, a native of Kansas City, MO, spent the 2020-21 season nearly 8,000 kilometres from home, playing with SIG Strasbourg in France. Despite dealing with the difficulties of being so far from home, complicated by the ramifications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wainright earned this opportunity by averaging 11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals for a Strasbourg team that finished third in France's Pro A League.
"I'm here, I'm in the States - it's tough. I don't think people understand, it's tough, literally every emotion, y'all can see," an emotional Wainright continued. "I'm a happy guy, but sometimes it's tough, but if you can make it over there, you can make it anywhere.
"I do it for my kids, to be honest, I'm trying to smile, I'm trying to have fun and I'm here and I don't wanna go back over there. I'm here to stay."
A forward that measures at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Wainright has the frame and attributes to fill a 3-and-D role for the Raptors. As a senior at Baylor, Wainright earned Big 12 All-Defensive Team honours thanks to his versatility on that end of the floor, and in Toronto's win over Houston, he flashed his ability to space the floor as a shooter.
Wainright fits the bill of the prototypical Raptors player, from his attributes to his skills and, most importantly, his mental fortitude and approach to the game.
His journey will be a fun one to follow.
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