Raptors’ Acy learning how to be a pro

Raptors rookie forward Quincy Acy just returned to Toronto after a stint with the Bakersfield Jam. (AP)

It’s been a long season in Toronto, yet still, Quincy Acy is smiling.

After two stints playing with the Raptors’ D-League affiliate Bakersfield Jam, Acy is back with his teammates and grateful as ever for the opportunity to live out his NBA dreams.

We caught up with the rookie to talk about his first campaign, his time with the Jam, how his support system at home has helped his transition and the lessons he has learned this season.

A rookie by NBA measures, the four-year Baylor grad and father to son Austin, is wise beyond his years.

Sportsnet.ca: How does it feel to be back in Toronto with the team?

Quincy Acy: It feels great. It feels good to be around the people that have helped mold me thus far. It just feels good to be here.

Sportsnet.ca: How do you feel about your last stint in Bakersfield?

Acy: I feel good. My rebounding numbers were up more, my points were up more. I took a couple of games to get my legs up under me as far as conditioning, but I felt good.

Sportsnet.ca: Is that the most important part of being in the D-League? The opportunity to get those reps in and to play big minutes?

Acy: Yeah, because I haven’t played 30 minutes since college. The first couple of games, it was rough, but after that I just kind of found my flow and just really adjusted the team did a really good job of helping to integrate me. That felt really good too.

Sportsnet.ca: How different is Bakersfield to Toronto?

Acy: (laughing) It’s all agriculture. It’s all farmland. It’s a really small town. I mean, it’s a lot different. I can’t even compare it, man. It’s a lot different. Night and day. But the weather’s great. The weather’s great, so that was cool.

Sportsnet.ca: Last week Terrence said it was helpful to come into the NBA as a rookie with two other rookies on the team, even though the guys don’t treat Jonas Valanciunas as a real rookie because he’s played pro already. Is that something you relate to?

Acy: It’s made it more fun. It’s not a lot of workload on myself or just him. We help each other. If it’s something that they ask one of us to do and we can’t do it, I’ll ask him if he can get it for me and I’ll get him next time. Like holding something for one of the guys, just little tedious stuff that kind of gets on your nerves (laughs).

Sportsnet.ca: Is it funny to have to do rookie duties and things like that when you’re the parent when you go home, and you’ve already been the senior and stayed in school for four years?

Acy: Yeah. It’s just…you’ve just got to swallow your pride sometimes. You know the guys don’t mean no harm. They’re good guys. Like last year I was a senior doing the same stuff. The roles are reversed. I kind of know how to take it and I wasn’t too hard on my guys last year, so, good karma.

Sportsnet.ca: Is it a lot of little things?

Acy: A whole bunch of little stuff. They ask you to do a lot of stuff, that’s the thing. Like, ‘Huh, you can’t carry your own bag to the place that we’re both going?’ It’s just little stuff.

Sportsnet.ca: Nearing end of first season, what has it been like to spend the past year living your dream?

Acy: It feels good. Especially going through it and knowing what kind of mentality it took. Especially for myself I’m proud of myself for not folding, not breaking and just staying, keeping a positive mindset. That’s been the most important thing for me. Keep a positive mindset. Don’t be added stress. We’ve been losing, so don’t be the guy that’s mad because you’re not playing. Don’t be the guy that’s mad because you have to go to the D-League. Be a positive attitude no matter what. Help. Just be a good teammate. That’s what’s most important for me. I’m just proud of myself for being able to do that as well as having a family off the court. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in this life that people don’t know about before they get here.

Sportsnet.ca: Do you think people forget about the mental toughness needed to play at this level? To be away from your loved ones, to not be upset or angry if you’re not playing? When you get to this level, everyone is talented…Is the mental toughness part of what comes into it?

Acy: I think so. We have great fans. But it’s always going to be, we call them trolls, on Twitter, and we’re always going to have guys who are like, ‘Ahaha, he got sent to the D-League’ or “Hahaha, he’s not playing.’ And there’s always going to be guys like that and you see that because they’re sending it to you.

Sportsnet.ca: Is that tough to see?

Acy: Yeah, it is to not say something, but you’ve got to be a man at some point. Just realize your dream has come true. I use it as fuel for me to work harder. I come into the gym at night, shoot by myself, run more, just little stuff that helps me have another edge that’s going to take me to the next level so I can be on the court and play.

Sportsnet.ca: Do you come in with anybody?

Acy: Nah, I come in on my own. I don’t know. I don’t really like people to know that I’m up here doing stuff. I kind of want to let them see for themselves that I’ve been working on my jumper, stuff like that. So it’s like, ‘Damn, the jumper came out of nowhere,’ and nah, it didn’t. I’ve been working on it. I come over here late, around 10, 10:30 at night. My son will be sleeping when I get home, I get in the cold tub afterward, then I go home and go right to sleep. My girlfriend and son, they don’t mind.

Sportsnet.ca: Your girlfriend played basketball, right? Does that make it easier?

Acy: Yeah, she played. She understands what the basketball life is like because she played professionally in Italy. She played in Italy so that helps because she knows how the professional life is.

Sportsnet.ca: Does that help to have someone that knows what you need to do for you to be successful so you don’t have to worry about that whether you’re here in Toronto or in Bakersfield or wherever?

Acy: Yeah, she talks to me. She encourages me, and that’s a good thing to have too. Somebody that’s going to encourage you, uplift you. That’s just great to have. She doesn’t complain. It’s hard for her because she’s at home all the time with the little one. She doesn’t really know everybody out here so that’s hard for her too, but she’s a strong woman and that’s all I could ask for.

Sportsnet.ca: It’s great to be with the team now, but how great is it to also be back here and be able to go home each night and see her and your son?

Acy: Yeah, that’s fun. Just to see his smile. He knows when I’m there and she said he’ll be brightening up whenever I’m around. When I was gone, he was kind of sad, kind of pouting. She said he’s energized now, he’s happy because his daddy is home. And that feels good too…it feels so good to have that support and love from a little individual that doesn’t know nothing about all of this. It’s crazy. I love it.

SN: Who has helped you the most this season, learning how to be a professional at this level?

Acy: Without a doubt, Aaron Gray. That’s my vet. Kyle Lowry, he’s my vet as far as rookie duties, but Aaron Gray without a doubt. We come up here together. The game he had 20 and 10, he still was up here early the next day. He just shows me the ropes of how to be a professional. What not to do, not to complain how to be smart with everything on and off the court. He’s helped me a lot. I can’t thank him enough. He knows that. I couldn’t have been in a better position with a better guy.

Sportsnet.ca: Do you think people underestimate the importance of every player on the team? They might not see Aaron as playing a lot of minutes, but here he is behind the scenes, helping to bring you along.

Acy: Yeah. People will never know that. Unless you’re on the team. He does a great job and everybody has their own role. That’s the main thing. Finding your niche. That’s what I always hear and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. He’s helped me a lot. I can’t even explain. It just feels good to have him help me on and off the court. That means a lot. He’s smart with his money. He doesn’t get into all the flashy stuff. He’s got the same car he’s had since he’s been in the league. I haven’t bought a car yet. Little stuff like that, it’s really helping me knowing how to be a professional.

Sportsnet.ca: What’s been the highlight of this season for you?

Acy: Just being here. The whole thing has been blessing. I couldn’t have asked for more. This is a dream come true. I didn’t know it was going to be this hard but I’m just proud of myself for preserving and still working.

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