Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newest Raptor Jakob Poeltl Credits Sports Parents for Paving Way to NBA

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newest Raptor Jakob Poeltl Credits Sports Parents for Paving Way to NBA

Article excerpt

Sports family helped Poeltl get to NBA


TORONTO - As the young son of Austrian national team volleyball players, Jakob Poeltl knew he'd grow up to play sports.

But in a mountainous country known for churning out world-class skiers, basketball was barely on the radar. So the day after the seven-foot centre became the first Austrian drafted into the NBA, Poeltl pointed to his mom Martina and dad Rainer for instilling in him a love of sports.

Their support pathed his unlikely journey from Austria to the Toronto Raptors.

"Even as a little kid, I was always in the gym," Poeltl said. "Them playing volleyball I was like being the ball boy actually, just running around, playing around. I was super active because I grew up in this family of athletes, a very active family.

"So for me as a kid, it was pretty obvious that I would play a sport. And it was basketball, it was pretty random, but I loved it and I never looked back."

The Raptors selected the seven-foot forward from the University of Utah with the No. 9 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, and Ujiri said, with Poeltl's background -- and his obvious love of the game -- choosing him was a no-brainer.

"When you see a big guy who loves to play, his parents were athletes and he grew up in a sports environment, and loves the game of basketball and loves to be in the gym, you just run and hug him and take him and run," Ujiri said, with a laugh.

"Because you don't find them. A lot of big guys are pushed to play, right? That's the reality of life. You're seven feet, so go play basketball. This kid loves to play, he loves the game of basketball."

Poeltl's parents, plus sister Miriam and friend Jan were on hand as the 20-year-old, dressed in a navy blue suit and scuffed grey running shoes, was introduced to the media Friday at BioSteel Centre. Poeltl posed holding his new No. 42 Raptors jersey.

Ujiri indicated he'd had his eye on Poeltl for the last two years. In his freshman season, Poeltl held Jahlil Okafor to a season-low six points in the NCAA tournament. …

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