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Why Ishmail Wainright is a perfect fit in Toronto

Photo Credit: NBA.com

The Toronto Raptors are known for having the ability to acquire players with great talent and great character both on and off the court. With a busy 2021 off-season in full swing, the Raptors had an easy decision with their recent signing of forward Ishmail Wainright. When the opportunity presented itself to add more depth to their lineup, the Raptors did not hesitate to sign Wainright, who will no doubt become a fan favourite in Toronto very soon.

After some impressive performances in the 2021 NBA Summer League with the Toronto, Ish Wainright has captured the attention of Raptors fans across the country with his play on the court and his incredible journey towards the NBA.

With his dedication through adversity, on the way to fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing professional basketball, Ish Wainright is earning his spot on the Toronto Raptors’ squad for the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season. Despite not following a traditional route to the NBA or having a huge spotlight on him for his whole career, Wainright is solidifying his role with the Raptors and fits right in with a team of underdogs who are ready to work and win again.

Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Wainright’s recognition in the basketball world began came after attending widely-known prep school Montrose Christian School in Maryland. Montrose is known for a talent-producing basketball program in recent years, with notable alumni like Kevin Durant, Terrence Ross and Patrick McCaw. Wainright was considered a four-star recruit coming out of high school, ranking 60th by ESPN in their Top 100 for the 2013 draft class. Standing at 6’5, 235 lbs and a 7’1 wingspan, Wainright was recognized for his two-way versatility at the wing position, being a physical finisher at one end while a defensive stopper at the other.

Wainright committed to Baylor University where he played for four years from 2013-2017. He averaged 5.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game in his senior year with the Bears. Although his stats did not jump off the page, Wainright was known for his work ethic, leadership and defensive awareness, earning him starts in all 35 games in his senior year. He was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team that same year.

Despite this accolade and being eligible for the NBA Draft in 2017, Wainright went undrafted and decided to pursue a career in football. He transitioned to the Baylor Football team to play tight end.

After one season playing college football, his adaptability and dedicated training earned him a training camp invitation to the Buffalo Bills in 2018. Despite being signed by the Bills, Wainright eventually made the decision to return to basketball and continue to work for his dream.

Wainright’s basketball career took him overseas, playing in Europe for three years following football. He played for three different teams; both Nürnberg Falcons BC and Rasta Vechta in the German ProA League, and later with SIG Strasbourg in the French ProA League. Wainright averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals for Strasbourg and helped them finish third overall in the French ProA League in 2020.

Wainright’s international work put him on the Raptors’ radar. Beyond his stats and play on the court, the Raptors were drawn to his character, winning mentality and tough mindset through the adversity of his basketball journey. All the work and dedication Wainright committed over many years finally paid off in the 2021 off-season when the Toronto Raptors signed him to a two-year deal.  

Wainright fits right in with the Raptors organization and is exactly what they were looking for in the off-season. The Raptors found a long, athletic player with the ability to defend multiple positions. His hustle and versatile two-way ability match perfectly with the Raptors’ defensive mindset. He showed this during a Summer League game against Houston, where he led the way with 20 points on the offensive end, along with four steals and two blocks on the defence.

Ish Wainright and his story is something that will capture the hearts of all Raptors fans. Dedication through adversity is what creates great caliber players, something that the Raptors embody and strive for when finding players who fit into their team culture. The Raptors scouting and development program are recognized league wide, giving great players like Ish Wainright the opportunity to shine under the brightest lights.

With the likelihood that the Raptors will be playing back home in Toronto next season, fans will have the chance to welcome Wainright to the city. He did not have an easy journey to get to where he is today and the Raptors recognized that when signing him. Bringing in a player like Ish Wainright to this Toronto team will only add to the winning mentality and ambition the Raptors have for the upcoming seasons. Masai Ujiri promised fans the Raptors will win again in Toronto, and signing Ish Wainright feels like a step in that direction.

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