Camara shocked by trade but excited for opportunity with Blazers

Former Dayton forward starts first NBA preseason training camp Tuesday

Toumani Camara laughed after hearing the first question at a press conference Monday in Portland, Ore.

“You’ve learned the business of the NBA pretty quickly,” a reporter said. “What has the last week been like for you?”

The former Dayton Flyers forward Camara spent a little more than three months with the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sept. 27. He met with local media for the first time Monday, one day before the start of training camp.

Camara will now play his rookie season in the same city where UD greats Johnny Davis and Jim Paxson started their NBA careers in 1976 and 1979, respectively. Negele Knight and Brian Roberts, two more Flyer legends, also played for the Trail Blazers at different points in their careers.

Every player learns about the business of the NBA at some point. Camara learned a big lesson before ever stepping foot on a NBA court in a regular-season game.

“It’s been a little crazy,” Camara said in his answer to the first question at the press conference. “It’s been very good, though. I mean I’m still in the NBA, still living my dream. It’s just a different city, different scenery, but I’m very excited to get it going and get on the court.”

Camara worked out with the Trail Blazers before the draft. His former Dayton teammate, DaRon Holmes II, participated in the same workout.

“The workout went pretty well,” Camara said, “and the people that I met were very open and kind. That was probably my first impression — just how nice the people here are.”

Portland reminded Camara of his hometown — Brussels, Belgium — because of the weather and the greenery.

“It’s a nice place to be,” Camara said. “When the trade happened, I was shocked and surprised. I just didn’t expect it. It was not even something that crossed my mind. As a rookie, I was just so much into the work and going to the gym and stuff like that. And one day everything changed. It’s just about adaptation and getting used to your new environment. I think that’s something that I’ve been dealing with throughout my career.”

The Blazers will hold their training camp at Robertson Gym on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, Calif. They will practice there Tuesday through Saturday. They play their first preseason game Oct. 10 at the Moda Center in Portland against the New Zealand Breakers.

Camara’s new team includes two players who were also part of the three-team trade. The Blazers acquired Jrue Holiday, of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Deandre Ayton, of the Suns, in the deal. The centerpiece of the trade was seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard, who went to the Bucks.

Camara is one of six rookies on the training camp roster. Three were drafted by the Blazers in June: G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson, who was drafted third overall; Iowa forward Kris Murray (23rd overall); and guard/forward Rayan Rupert, of France, who was drafted 43rd, nine spots ahead of Camara in the second round. Portland also signed three undrafted free agents: Malachi Smith (Gonzaga); Antoine Davis (Detroit Mercy); and Duop Reath (LSU).

Camara told reporters Monday he is someone who plays hard and brings energy to the court. He can guard multiple positions and play multiple positions on offense and defense, he said, but he takes the most pride in playing winning basketball.

“I love winning,” he said, “and whatever the team needs me to do at the moment, that’s what I’m going to do. I think I’m a simple person on the court, and I can do a lot of different things. The role that they probably want me to be in is a role that probably Phoenix wanted me to be in — just be myself and adapt to new situations and different situations that I’m going to be put in, whether it’s guarding guards or bigger guys.”

Camara played his first two seasons of college basketball with the Georgia Bulldogs and then averaged 12.4 points in his last two seasons at Dayton. Camara was the first Dayton player drafted since the New York Knicks took Obi Toppin with the No. 8 pick in the first round in 2020.

“I think throughout my whole career I’ve had to prove myself and show what I’m capable of doing,” Camara said, “and that’s just part of me now. I’m trying to create a career that I always dreamed about. Everything starts now today. I’m want to put Belgium on the map, to put my family out there and be able to show what I’m really capable of on the highest stage of basketball. I’m just very looking forward to it.”

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