Raise your hand if you love Pascal.
Now that everyone in the entire country of Canada – and all the other fantastic Raptors fans across the globe – has their hand in the air, raise your other hand if you think Pascal is primed and ready to lead the team for the 2019-20 season. Yep, good. We all agree.
We can also all agree that there are some big (BIG!) shoes to fill in the leadership department, now that Kawhi has left. So, what’s next? How are we going to follow up on this last incredible season? Can we do it again? Is any one player capable of stepping up and stepping into the leadership role?
Obviously, Nick Nurse plays a huge leadership role, just as he’s paid to. But people – whether they’re sports stars, businessmen and women, artists, students… everyone and anyone – need to be able to look up to someone in their field, someone who exemplifies heart, hustle, and skill.
Enter my pal Pascal.
He’s praised Fred VanVleet’s leadership. He’s asked coaches if he can borrow textbooks that discuss the sport of basketball. And he’s made very supportive comments about Kawhi’s leadership abilities. Pascal and Danny Green both spoke briefly on Green’s podcast Inside the Green Room about Kawhi’s leadership, saying that while Kawhi was once a young greenhorn, he proved with the Raps that he had grown both in talent and leadership ability. I respect how he progressed through his career, Pascal said about Leonard, and how he just always did the right thing and played hard.
That’s how you lead.
If that’s Spicy P’s definition of leadership… well then. He himself has got it in the bag. His Most Improved award was well earned – 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists? Those numbers scream talent.
Arden Zwelling from Sportsnet described Pascal as having a “want-it-more effort you can’t teach.” This may be the best description of the Cameroonian’s game you’ll ever find. But the thing is that Spicy P himself CAN teach it. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s taken the same steps towards leadership and respect that he commented Kawhi had; his dramatic progress through the rookie stage (4.2 points per game in 2016-17 to 7.3 in 17-18, to 16.9 in 18-19!), his recent announcement of participation with Steve Nash and the Jr. NBA Canadian Leadership Council, and the fact that he went to seminary school are just a few of the factors that contribute to his work ethic, to his overall presence as an athlete.
Yes, the guy went to seminary school. Seminary! At 11 years old he began attending St. Andrew’s Seminary School in Bafia, Cameroon, and it was there that he really learned discipline, focus, and the value of hard work. Although he preferred soccer to basketball during his time there, and the idea of playing in the NBA probably never even crossed his mind, the skills he learned at St. Andrew’s have obviously groomed him for leadership with the Raptors.
While a friend of mine said that he thinks Kyle Lowry, with his seven seasons as a Rap, his frequent and friendly media appearances, and his overall attitude, is maybe the team’s emotional leader, he also heartily agreed that Siakam is definitely the one to fill Leonard’s role-model shoes. While Kawhi was sporting his Jordans for most of the last season and then switched to New Balance, Pascal wears Kevin Durant’s Nike line – and there’s always a handwritten message on them: “RIP Dad.”
Those are the shoes of a leader.
Image Source: AP Images