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Toronto Raptors forward Justin Champagnie discusses why he’s such a good rebounder, how getting cut from his Grade 6 basketball team fuelled him and next steps in his development.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: OK. Hello, guys.
- Hey, Justin, we'll start with Kayla Grey.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: One second, I just want the record to know that Pascal is my son, but continue.
- We can elaborate on that, because Pascal had said that you taught him-- or, I mean that he was the one teaching you how to rebound.
But there just seems to be something about the ways in which you have this energy that I think we've talked about. How does that show up and translate when it comes to your success, when it comes to the boards?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I just think that when you go with a lot of energy and you play with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of guys can't really match that kind of energy, [INAUDIBLE]. I don't play that many minutes, so I have a lot more energy coming off the bench.
So those guys who play in the game kind of get tired and don't want to really go hard for the rebounds. But that's [INAUDIBLE] I slip in and I take a few offensive boards and some defensive boards, and just really bring some energy and get the team going.
- When it comes to the work that you've been able to put in, as you mentioned, minutes here, of course, are limited, but you have had time with Raptors 905. Where would you say that you're at right now in your progress?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: In terms of my game?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I feel like I'm going in the right direction. I'm doing stuff, I'm working on and doing stuff that fits into my role on the team. I'm not trying to do anything that's out of the ordinary. I'm trying to work on something I do in the game. So I feel like I've been doing pretty good with that, and I'm going to keep getting better and better over time.
- Awesome, thank you, safe travels.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Thank you.
- Thanks, Kayla. We'll go to Steven.
- Hey, Justin, it's good to see you.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Thank you.
- It sounds like you and Pascal have a pretty tight relationship. So I'm just curious when did this start, and why did you guys just click with each other so well?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I met Pascal this summer. His agent is also my agent. So I met him this summer in California. So I just thought he was a cool person. And then once I got here, he just kind took me under his wing, trying to show me the ropes, trying to give me some advice here and there about how to really become a pro, and act professional, and play professional.
So I appreciate him so much, and I got a lot of respect for him. I think he's a great player, and I look up to him. He's the person that I want to get to, you know what I'm saying?
- You mentioned him taking you under under his wing. Do you have an anecdote of some kind, like an example of ways that he's really helped to you kind of grow as a professional and as a player?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I would just say, in the beginning of the year, he was just telling me, try and come in earlier, try and get some extra shots in, just get your extra work in before practice and after practice, just try to be the first one in and the last one out.
- Right, thanks a lot, Justin.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Thank you.
- We'll go to Eric.
- Hey, Justin, thanks for taking the time today. Obviously, you're one of the guys who's working a lot on his shot, trying to turn that more into a weapon, so opponents start to treat it as such. While that's developing, when you're on the floor with guys like Fred and Pascal who need that space, what is the key to helping create that space, even if you're not necessarily attracting that attention on the outside?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I would just say those guys have confidence in me. They always tell me when I get in the corner if I'm open to take the shot. So they believe in me, but just really staying, spacing out, just staying at the exits, try and stay in the corner of the wing. And if they drive and go for a layup, or what not, just crash from there. So that's all there really is to it.
- Obviously, there's cutting opportunities, as well, especially when those drives start. Is there anybody you've watched who's really good at that, or is that just instinct?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: That's just more for instinct. It's just knowing who you're playing with, guys who are going to, obviously, double down on Pascal because he's got a great mid-range, Fred, obviously, a really good scorer. So those opportunities open up when those guys drive in and get the ball in those areas.
- Thanks, Justin, have a good trip.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: You too. I mean thank you.
- See? [INAUDIBLE].
- Sorry, we'll going to Emmett next.
- Hey, Justin, thanks so much for your time today. Kind of an off-the-board question for you. But I was reading about you a little bit, and I learned that you were cut from your sixth great basketball team, way back in the day. So how did that catapult you, and how does that kind of-- when that happened, did that kind of like show your competitive spirit kind of rebounding to, I guess, all of the success you've had in your career?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Oh, I never forget that day. That day was the first time that I actually took exception to not being considered one of the best. I never really listen to people when they say stuff like that. But that day when I got cut, I took it very personal. I just kept it on my shoulder throughout the whole way.
So I kind of always look back at it and just see how far I came, but [INAUDIBLE] more. I want to go higher and higher and higher as the time goes on. So I'm just going to keep it in the back of my head and keep using that as motivation.
- Did your brother react the same way?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: He got cut too. We were both crying outside of school.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Yeah.
- How are you guys different with, I guess, how you handle news like that?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: It's more so if I get cut, or something like that, I'm going to take more exception to it. I'm going to want to get back the next year, and the next year. I'm not going to stop until I get what I want-type thing. He's the same way, but I'm just more aggressive with it.
- That's cool. Thanks man, much appreciate it.
- Thanks, Emmett. We'll go to Aaron.
- Hey, Justin. You told us a little while ago about how you sort of didn't develop your shooting because you were so focused on being in energy and a rebounder. What was AAU basketball like for you?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I played on EYBO for one year, and then I played UA for the next year. But I was just really going out to just having fun. I didn't really put too much thought into it. I was just hooping with some friends, and it kind of just worked out for me.
I remember my last year playing, I played on New Heights, and I only played two circuits. two sessions. And I averaged the most points and rebounds.
- Were you the only guy focusing on rebounds and not putting up big numbers?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: I was averaging 19 points and eight rebounds, nine rebounds at the time. But it was just going out there having fun, basically.
- Thanks, Justin.
- Last one for you, Justin, goes to Josh.
- Hey, Justin, thanks for doing this. Chris was telling us the other night that he's been studying Dennis Rodman clips, in terms of his rebounding. Obviously, rebounding is and has been a strength of yours. Is there anybody that you've studied over the years, just in terms of angles and stuff like that? Or is it just more of a natural thing for you?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: It's more of a natural thing. I have watched Dennis Rodman, though. I had a college coach who calls me Baby Rodman, because I just wanted to get rebounds. It was just like the ball just always fell in my lap. But it's more of just a natural thing, just going out there and just doing your job and doing it.
- And being out there the other night with Chris, both of you guys crashing the offensive glass as much as you were, what was that like? How much fun is that to play with guys that have that same kind of energy? And how important do you think it is to have those guys in that kind of role, coming off the bench and bringing energy?
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Well, it's definitely fun when you're playing with a lot of guys who have energy, especially T B. Because Chris brings energy a lot at every game, basically, in my eyes. But it's important, because we got guys who are supposed to score the ball. We need guys who could do everything else, like the little things. So I feel like me and T B have been doing that pretty well.
- Cool, thanks, Justin.
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE: Yes, sir.
- Thanks very much, Josh. Those are all the hands I see for you, Justin. Thanks very much, appreciate the time.