The Toronto Raptors marquee acquisition this off-season, DeMarre Carroll, is in Toronto today to take part in the NBA Campus Pass event, which runs from 11-5. I caught up with Carroll this morning to talk about the event, embracing his new city, the rise of Alabama basketball, and the message he has for Luis Scola after the Argentinian torched Canada at the FIBA America’s on Tuesday.
Dave Zarum: So what are you going to be up to at this NBA event downtown today?
DeMarre Carroll: “It should be fun, man. I’m going to be there to sign autographs and take pictures, and there are three-point contests and other events like that. I haven’t been yet, but I heard Yonge-Dundas Square is like Toronto’s answer to Times Square, so I’m looking forward to checking it out.”
DZ: Yeah, and it’s always a cool scene in the summer down there. You’re always really involved with the community- I know you still run a bunch of camps in Georgia and back in Alabama, plus obviously your charity work. Before you ever made the League did you know you wanted to be that kind of guy if you had the opportunity?
DC: For sure. It’s always been a goal of mine to be a role model. Because when I was younger I always wished that NBA players would come [to Birmingham, AL]. I aspired to be an NBA player and would wish that they would come back and visit, so I would tell myself that if I ever made it I would do the same. I think doing camps and events of that nature is important. One person being involved like that can go a long way. That’s why I do a lot of things off the court and will continue to do so. I plan on doing a lot of stuff in Toronto to connect with the fans and be a part of that Toronto life.
DZ: Yeah, you mention not having a ton of NBA players around when you were growing up in Birmingham. It was a total football town, right?
DC: “I was completely surrounded by football growing up. I played when I was a little kid, but the first time I got hit I realized ‘this ain’t for me.’ But basketball is finally coming into popularity in Alabama.
DZ: Did you see the Seattle Pro-Am vs. Los Angeles Drew League game? You should put a squad together from Birmingham.
DC: Yeah, there are guys like myself, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, K.J. McDaniels, the list goes on. We’ve got eight or nine guys in the NBA now. I gotta get a team together!
DZ: So is this your first time back in Toronto since your press conference after you signed earlier this summer?
DC: Yeah, it is. My family is officially moving here later this month. I haven’t even seen the place I’m staying at yet. My wife actually picked it out and everybody I’ve told about it said it’s in a nice area, so I’m happy about that.
DZ: Even in your brief time here, what are your initial impressions of Toronto?
DC: It’s great, man. The passion here for the NBA game is amazing. You can feel it just coming in from the airport; crew members and airline staff checking me in are already putting pressure on me saying ‘You’re going to help change the team and take us past the first round’. No pressure! They’ve just been amazing, people understanding who you are and showing how much they love basketball and know me as a person, from JYD 2.0 to my run in the playoffs last season. It’s amazing man.
DZ: Yesterday a couple of your teammates were going at it during the Canada vs. Argentina Olympic qualifying tournament. Were you able to catch any of that?
DC: I did not see the game [live], but I heard Scola was making some noise. So when I got to my hotel room I got on Google and saw what went down, watched a replay of the game. And that 35 year was…it was amazing. And then I saw my boy Cory Joseph doing his thing, so two of my teammates getting it done. But, you know, I can’t wait to tell Luis that he can get away with all the hacking and all that in international basketball, but once you get back to the NBA… there’s no more of that.”
Carroll will be signing autographs and meeting fans at Yonge-Dundas Square between 4-5 pm ET today.