Pitt product Justin Champagnie made his pro debut for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Summer League on Sunday, and he impressed in his first NBA action, scoring in double figures despite limited minutes. Champagnie also helped his new team defeat the New York Knicks’ Summer League squad 89-79 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Champagnie did not start for the Raptors but came off the bench for the first time with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. Three minutes later, he made a three on the first shot attempt of his pro career. He would score on another three-point attempt in the second quarter and capitalize on two inside-scoring chances later in the game. All told, the 6’6”, 200-pound forward out of Brooklyn finished with 10 points, two assists, one steal and one block. He also went 4-for-7 from the field and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Champagnie’s performance served as a key step in addressing a hole in his game, as many at the NBA level have expressed concerns about his abilities as a shooter. But beyond that, he displayed versatility, showing that he could contribute as a complementary player after spending the last season of his college career as the focal point of the Pitt offense. He also made an impression on ESPN announcer and ex-St. John’s coach Fran Fraschilla.
“Justin Champagnie is going to be an NBA player,” Fraschilla said on the broadcast. “Trust me on this. Don’t worry that he didn’t get drafted. He is so much in the mold of a young P.J. Tucker, Torrey Craig [or] Royce O’Neal. ... I am a huge fan of this kid. He is undersized, he’s got to continue to improve his outside shooting, but he is a jumping jack. He has a nose for the ball, and I guarantee you that this kid will make the roster someday.”
While Champagnie had a solid outing, the game was far from normal for him, as he came up with zero rebounds in 15 minutes on the court. It also seems there is still aways to go in terms of building chemistry with his new teammates, as is to be expected at this point. But as chemistry develops and Champagnie becomes more comfortable pursuing rebounds, his performances should improve and his chances of playing in the NBA on a full-time basis, as opposed to the G League, should increase.
Champagnie and the Raptors are set to take the court again on Wednesday night, when they will face the Summer League team of the Golden State Warriors. The Raptors and Warriors will tip off from the Thomas and Mack center at 8 p.m. ET, and the game will air on ESPN 2.