Six years ago, one of Bryan Colangelo's current Toronto Raptors
starters did not impress him.
Jamario Moon had arrived at the Suns' practice court in some yellow-brown Nikes that hardly looked like basketball shoes.
Before working out in front of Colangelo, then the Suns' general manager, and then-Assistant General Manager David Griffin, Moon had been kicked off a junior-college team for academic reasons in 2000, and he had not been selected in the NBA draft.
"He was an unbelievable athlete, but I told Griff, 'He's so far away from being ready for the NBA,' " said Colangelo, now the Raptors' president and GM.
The kid was moons away. Moon then went to an NBA training camp, played on three NBA summer-league teams and played on 13 teams (most of which cut him) in the USBL, NBDL, CBA, ABA, WBA and a Mexican league.
He also showcased his incredible vertical leap for the Harlem Globetrotters.
But after his coach with the CBA's Albany Patroons, Micheal Ray Richardson, convinced Moon that defense would get him to the NBA, he broke the mold of how to break into the NBA.
At age 27, Moon is a Raptors
starter because he stood out at a June free-agent workout that Colangelo held in Toronto.
Over five days, Moon emerged from 30 invitees, even though Colangelo was looking for a backup point guard.
A June industry report had Moon ranked as the 14th-best small forward in all of the minor leagues. But the report also said Moon was "misunderstood" and that there was "something about him you should follow."
"Jamario was so head and shoulders above everybody," Colangelo said. "We sent him to (ex-NBA coach John) Lucas in the summer for workouts with other NBA players. Lucas said he literally would not back down against anybody. (Sonics forward) Chris Wilcox would dunk on him, and he'd dunk on Wilcox. Lucas told me, 'He may be lost. But don't give up on him. You won't be sorry.' "
And Colangelo is not. Moon filled a dire Raptors
need for athleticism and defense. He connected with coach Sam Mitchell, a fellow small-town Southerner who went from the CBA to NBA at 26.
You could see the leaping ability against the Suns on Wednesday night, when the 6-foot-8 forward went high to block a Shawn Marion shot.
Sometimes Moon looks like he could touch the moon, and he must feel like it, too.