When Justin Champagnie declared for the NBA Draft back in May, not many people were confident that he made the right decision.
Fans, media, and numerous NBA mock drafts predicted him going un-drafted, which led to an outpour of negative comments regarding the Brooklyn native’s choice to leave Pitt and head off to the pros.
However, those close to Champagnie, including Pitt head coach Jeff Capel, always knew that he made the right decision.
“I talk to him all the time,” Capel said. “[I am] incredibly proud of him. I thought he made a great decision, first and foremost, for him and his family. I thought it was the right decision, and you know, when you are in the position that he is in, when you’re not going to be a guaranteed first round pick, if you’re not going to be early second round, in a lot of ways it’s best to not get drafted. Then you can pick the situation that’s best.”
Prior to the draft, Pitt held a press conference with Champagnie over the summer, in which he told reporters that a certain team had told him that he was going to end up with them. Although he did not get drafted, it looks like Toronto was that team the whole way through.
“His agent did an incredible job, because all throughout the process, we communicated with Justin and his agent knew that Toronto loved him,” Capel went on. “So he was able to basically not get him drafted once it went past a certain number, which was great because it put him in a position where he gets to go to a team that values him, that loves him.”
Champagnie with the strong drive… 10 points so far. Followed this one up with a floater in the lane pic.twitter.com/O3azgvDYJy
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) August 8, 2021
In Summer League play, Champagnie averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. His best game out of the five that he played was his 11-point, 11-rebound double double against his hometown Brooklyn Nets in the Raptors’ Summer League finale.
“A good friend of mine is the associate head coach there, and after the first few days of practice for summer league he texts me and [says that] he fits our culture, he’s exactly what we’re about,” said Capel. “Then he said something that made my jaw drop, like, how good, how hard he is working defensively. That kind of blew me away. I am proud of him, I am happy for him, and I think he is going to do a fantastic job.”
On Monday night, Champagnie finished his first preseason game with the Raptors having scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, including 2 for 5 from three-point range. He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in this stellar opening to preseason action.