CHICAGO - Pascal Siakam made his first appearance at the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
Playing alongside the world's best players, Siakam held his own, finishing the night with 15 points and six rebounds on 70% shooting from the field. It was the most for any Raptor making their debut in the All-Star Game and eight points shy of Toronto's single-game All-Star scoring record held by Chris Bosh (2009-10).
It's another checkpoint in the continued growth that Toronto's franchise star has seen throughout his three and a half year career.
Former Raptors assistant coach Phil Handy still marvels at the quick rise of the 25-year-old.
"When I got to Toronto last year, Pascal was the one guy that I looked at as kind of like ... I don't want to say a project, but I looked at him saying, 'Man, his growth over this next year is going to be tremendous,'" Handy told NBA.com over All-Star Weekend.
"I'm not surprised, he's spent a lot of time with Rico Hines. Rico is a great dude, stand up dude, been working out guys for years, so their relationship has kind of led (Siakam) to this.
"In the time I was able to spend with (Siakam) last year, helping him really refine his skills and work on a few things, I'm not surprised, man. That kid has an unbelievable work ethic ... he's a student of the game, he wants to learn, so I think that's the beginning of it. And then, just his size - his size alone and his athletic ability - you know he's hungry, man."
Darico Hines, who now works for the Sacramento Kings in player development, has become a household name because of his summer runs that feature the who's who of the NBA. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden have all spent time with Hines, playing in his runs during the league's off-season.
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So proud of this guy right here @pskills43 .. Never complained , never questioned. Just always believed in the BIG PICTURE! 3 & 4 months at a time. breakfast club, early mornings and late afternoons every summer... Congrats champs, Allstar starter.... First of many to come ... Just the beginning ... Love🙏🏿❤️🙏🏿 #knowyourbigpicture #familyforever #theblueprint
Although Hines had been working out with some of the league's brightest stars for many years, social media and Siakam's growth has put a brighter light on the work he's been able to do behind closed doors.
From rotation player to role player to starter and second option on a championship team - and finally, an All-Star starter - Siakam's growth can not be talked about enough.
MORE: Siakam has become a new player for third straight season
Handy, who has also helped a fair share of the league's top players elevate their games, hopes Siakam's ascent can be an example for other late-round draft picks.
"To see him just take the jump and not even just that, I'll take it even further back when I was in Cleveland we were playing (Toronto) and Pascal was just coming into the league," Handy continued. "We were looking at this kid like 'leave him open, let him shoot,' those types of things.
"To see that turn into what it is now, that's what you hope for, for every young guy that comes into the league - that they can develop on that type of platform."
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