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Nurse, Powell believe Raptors rookie Malachi Flynn has drive to thrive in NBA

Malachi Flynn sits with Fred VanVleet every morning, peppering the veteran guard with questions about the NBA game.

Since he was drafted 29th overall just three weeks ago, Flynn hasn’t had the luxury of casual summer workouts to get to know his new teammates. There was no NBA summer league and no lengthy pre-season to impress his coach.

But just five practices into the team’s camp at Tampa, Fla., coach Nick Nurse and the Raptors consider he’s a keeper.

Third in the guard rotation behind Kyle Lowry and VanVleet, Flynn could see significant playing time, Nurse said, when the Raptors open the pre-season Saturday at Charlotte. The six-foot-one guard is coming off a senior season at San Diego State that saw him earn Mountain West player and defensive player of the year, helping the Aztecs to a 30-2 record.

Undersized and overlooked for a large chunk of his career, he’s drawn comparisons to VanVleet.

Norm Powell — whose motto and brand is “Understand the Grind” — can also relate.

“I look for guys that have that same hunger, that same drive and that same desire to get better each and every day, that guy that has that chip on his shoulder and wants to learn and is willing to learn, willing to listen and I know Malachi’s got that,” Powell said.

Flynn, the youngest of seven kids from Tacoma, Wash., averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game last season, and shot 44.1 per cent from the field and 37.3 per cent from long distance.

He’s made some great passes in practices so far, said Powell, and knocked down some big shots in scrimmages.

Nurse concurred.

“He’s been very, very good. Very very good. He’s got a great head for the game, kind of a baller, really knows how to play, understands a lot out there and he’s got some fearlessness to him,” Nurse said. “He’s got a shooting component, he’s got a finishing component to his offence.”

Nurse cautioned that he doesn’t like to get too carried away with young players, but agreed he’s probably at the level VanVleet and Lowry were at the same age.

“All he needs is some years and some minutes to get up to their level,” stated the coach. The Raptors play twice in Charlotte on Saturday and Monday before returning “home” to host Miami on Dec. 18 at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

Earlier this week, the Raptors revealed three members of their organization had tested positive for COVID-19, although it’s still unknown if any of them were players.

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