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Prospect of Interest: Christian Koloko adds needed rim protection to Raptors



With their lone pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors took University of Arizona junior centre Christian Koloko 33rd overall.

An adept, shot-blocking rim protector with quick feet that should allow him to switch all over the floor, he looks to be the defensive centre Toronto’s been needing in its secondary and tertiary lineups.

Here’s a little more on Koloko:

Age: 22
School: Arizona
Position: Centre
Height: Seven-foot-one | Weight: 230 lbs
2021-22 stats: PPG: 12.6 | RPG: 7.3 | APG: 1.4 | BPG: 2.8 | FG%: 63.5

A do-it-all defender

The first thing that should stand out to you about Koloko is his dimensions. He’s a seven-footer with a seven-foot-four wingspan and was among the best rim protectors in college basketball last season, averaging 2.8 blocks per game on his way to winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Raptors’ need for rim protection from the five has been talked about ad nauseam from just about every corner of the team’s fandom, and Koloko should comfortably take care of that.

He has the length, natural timing and the kind of quick leaping ability that should enable him to be both a strong- and weak-side shot blocker.

Even more exciting than his ability to turn aside shots, though, is how fleet of foot Koloko is. He boasts the kind of footspeed and lateral quickness that projects him to be able to switch easily, meaning he should be a valuable, malleable piece for head coach Nick Nurse to use defensively.

Nurse and his staff love playing an equal amount of switching and zone schemes, and between Koloko’s quick feet that should allow him to play the pick-and-roll in man-to-man coverage without much issue and his ability to anchor a defence and play goalie around the rim in a zone, he should be able to fit in seamlessly on the defensive side of the ball.

An immediate contributor

One of the knocks against Koloko is he’s already 22 years old, suggesting there might not be as much developmental runway to squeeze out of him. However, he came to basketball later in life, so there could still be some development time there.

Regardless, however, Koloko figures to be someone who can step in and contribute for the Raptors immediately because, for one, he fills a clear need for the team at backup centre, and also because this isn’t someone the Raptors don’t have any familiarity with.

Shortly after Toronto made its selection, Nurse spoke about the selection of Koloko and mentioned the fact the Raptors have had their eye on the young man for a while now, giving him familiarity and comfort to already begin making a call on his role heading into next season.

The Raptors have had their eye on Koloko ever since they first spotted him at a Basketball Without Borders Camp in 2017.

“I’ve seen quite a bit of him. I’ve seen him play quite a bit,” said Nurse. “It’s always hard to tell. I’m hoping so. I think that there’s probably positionally a chance for him to fight his way in there and get some time.”

Has some interesting coincidences with Siakam

As a cool coincidence, Koloko also happens to be from the same hometown as Pascal Siakam: Douala, Cameroon.

Koloko doesn’t quite have the same kind of backstory as Siakam as he was a more highly touted high-school recruit and ended up heading to a power conference school in Arizona, but there could be some shared history between the two in the way their offensive games might develop.

At the moment, Koloko projects to be a rim-running lob threat coming out of the pick-and-roll without much of a chance he’ll look to pop out to the three-point line. Over three seasons and 91 collegiate games, he was 0-for-5 from distance.

This was a similar story with Siakam, who was 3-for-17 in 68 college games over two seasons at New Mexico State, where he was used mostly as a traditional big man and not the multi-faceted, All-NBA wing he’s blossomed into since.

This isn’t to say Koloko will become a player with the kind of high-level versatile skill set that Siakam boasts, but considering the fact he shot 73.5 per cent from the free-throw line last season, there’s certainly more to pull from his shot than just five measly attempts from three-point range in college.

“It’s when the guys are really low free-throw shooters that you’re concerned you’re gonna have to take some time, but I would imagine we’ll try to push him out there and I bet you he makes more than zero in his career here,” said Nurse when asked about concerns with his shooting stroke.

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Astros throw combined no-hitter in win over Yankees



The Houston Astros threw a combined no-hitter as they defeated the New York Yankees 3-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Starter Cristian Javier lasted seven innings with Hector Neris pitching in relief for the eighth inning and Ryan Pressly closed it out at Yankees Stadium.

Javier threw a career-high 13 strikeouts. He issued a walk in the first inning to Josh Donaldson, who also reached base on an error in the seventh when third baseman Alex Bregman threw past first following a grounder.

The Astros (45-26) and Yankees (52-20) close out their four-game series on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the third no-hitter of the season already. Five New York Mets pitchers combined against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 29 and Reid Detmers of the Los Angeles Angels accomplished the feat solo against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 10.

Houston’s previous no-hitter was by Justin Verlander on Sept. 1, 2019, against the Toronto Blue Jays.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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Karriss Artingstall dominates Vaida Masiokaite to win professional debut



Karriss Artingstall, a bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games, made a seamless transition to the professional sport as she hammered out a six-round points win over Vaida Masiokaite.

At the Skydome Arena in Coventry, Artingstall took command of her bout with Masiokaite from the start, marching in close, drawing punches from her opponent to hammer in her own power shots.

She began to shake Masiokaite with right hooks that clipped the chin and upped her intensity in the fourth round, driving in combinations.

Fighting from the southpaw stance the Olympic featherweight bronze medallist lined up a heavy left cross, blasting it through the Lithuanian’s guard. Masiokaite was feeling the pressure and Artingstall hit with crisp, solid power.

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Karriss Artingstall admits she had nerves ahead of her pro-debut, but enjoyed her win over Vaida Masiokaite.

There were hints that Masiokaite could be about to unravel but she is resilient, she’s only been stopped inside the distance once and that was against Chantelle Cameron, now a unified world champion all the way up at super-lightweight.

Masiokaite hung tough but Artingstall took all six rounds to finish a 60-54 points winner.

“I enjoyed it,” Aringstall said afterwards.

“[I was] more nervous for the ring walk to be honest, but once that first bell goes it’s what I live for day in day out, so I’m used to it.”

Karriss Artingstall
Karriss Artingstall punishes Vaida Masiokaite with solid punch power (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER)

Tyler Denny won a tremendous battle for the English middleweight title against local Coventry man River Wilson-Bent. Denny, a southpaw, piled forward, getting himself onto the front foot and working up close.

He shook Wilson-Bent with lead right hooks and dictated where the bout was fought, forcing his opponent to the ropes and attacking the body.

A point off for clinching put Wilson-Bent in an even worse position. But he showed tremendous heart, roaring back in the final round to tag Denny with hurtful shots in the corner.

The decision was split, with judge Steve Gray scoring 96-94 for Wilson-Bent. But Terry O’Connor and Kevin Parker both had it for Denny, 97-93 and 96-93 respectively.

After Spain’s Carlos Perez stung BOXXER Series tournament winner Cori Gibbs with right crosses in the early going, the Birmingham switch hitter took control and boxed his way to a 79-73 points win over eight rounds.

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TNPL 2022 Most Runs and Most Wickets standings: Laxmesha Suryaprakash and Sanjay Yadav reclaim the top spots – Updated after Match 4



The Indian Cement Company Ground in Tirunelveli hosted the fourth match of the Tamil Nadu Premier League 2022 between Salem Spartans and Nellai Royal Kings on Saturday (June 25).

After being asked to bat first, the Salem Spartans batters never got going as they only managed to score 149 in their 20 overs, losing seven wickets. Daryl Ferrario top-scored with 60* and was well-supported by R Kavin, who scored 48. The Royal Kings’ bowlers bowled brilliantly, with Athisayaraj Davidson and NS Harish finishing with two wickets each.

The batters then stepped up and backed up their bowlers as they contributed and helped them chase down the total. A fantastic cameo from G Ajitesh (48* off 25 balls) helped the side get across the line with 14 balls to spare to win the game by five wickets. G Kishoor finished with two wickets but his side failed to defend the total.

TNPL 2022 most runs list

Kaushik Gandhi in action (Image Courtesy: Times of India)
Kaushik Gandhi in action (Image Courtesy: Times of India)

Laxmesha Suryaprakash of Nellai Royal Kings scored 62 in their first game and continued his rich form with the bat by scoring 35 against the Salem Spartans. He is currently leading the run-scorers list with 97 runs.

Uthirasamy Sasidev follows Suryaprakash in the list with 73 runs in two games. The right-handed batter represents Chepauk Super Gillies and has looked good in both outings so far. Chepauk Super Gillies skipper Kaushik Gandhi and S Harish Kumar are in the third and fourth positions as both have scored 65 runs so far.

TNPL 2022 most wickets list

Sanjay Yadav in action (Image Courtesy: myKhel)
Sanjay Yadav in action (Image Courtesy: myKhel)

Sanjay Yadav of Nellai Royal Kings leads the most wickets column with three scalps to his name in two games. He has bowled brilliantly for the Nellai Royal Kings and averages 17 with the ball. Yadav also bowls economical spells and is certainly a player to look out for in the competition.

The Chepauk Super Gillies have lost both games but R Alexander has been impressive for them. He went wicketless in the first game but stepped up on Saturday as he picked up three wickets, conceding only 20 runs in his four overs. He sits in the second position on the most wickets list.

Kiran Akash, NS Harish, and V Athisayaraj Davidson have each picked up three wickets and are behind R Alexander in the list. They will all look to keep performing in a similar fashion in the upcoming games.

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