Uprising seize on experience, chemistry in 2019 draft

Raptors Uprising GC walked into Barclays Center on Tuesday morning with two players and left Tuesday night with a cohesive team.

Freddie “Doza” Mendoza headlined the Uprising draft class, landing in Toronto with the fifteenth overall pick. The Raptors also selected Georgio “OOC Slim” Bonte in the second round and brought back Seanquai “KingQuai614” Harris and Joshua “TsJosh” McKenna with their third- and fourth-round picks, respectively.

Mendoza, one of the draft’s highly touted point guards, played for Pistons GT last season but went unretained at the end of the year. His skillful play over the offseason sent his draft stock soaring, and most prognosticators labeled the former fifth-round pick as a sure first-round talent.

“I’m ready to lock in, go to Toronto, and get to work,” Mendoza said. “I think it’s the perfect situation for me.”

Mendoza made a profound impact on the Uprising when the team travelled to Detroit for a mid-season boot camp with Pistons GT. The fifth-round pick, then playing under the gamertag “Im So Far Ahead,” impressed the Raptors with his performance on the court and with his personality in interviews and daily conduct.

“We really liked him last year. Even our documentary crew, when they interviewed him, said ‘Hey, that guy is awesome,’” said Shane Talbot, Esports Manager for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “We were very happy that he was available.”

The Raptors made sure to cement their chemistry even before the start of the season. The team snagged two veteran Uprising players from season one, selecting KingQuai614 and TsJosh, both already well versed in the team’s culture. The two players were instrumental in helping the Raptors to their scorching 7-1 run to the playoffs last season. While retaining one of the two players would have cost the Raptors a second-round pick, the team managed to snag both in the later rounds and still capitalized on their second-round pick to find new talent. KingQuai614 and Trey coalesced into a cohesively balanced frontcourt last season while TsJosh developed into a potent secondary ballhandler through Kenny’s veteran mentorship.

“I think this team’s greatest strength is chemistry,” Talbot said. “We don’t have any egos, we’ve got a lot of versatile players, and we’re already seeing how this is going to fit into the league meta.”

The new Raptors have already developed some chemistry with each other. Mendoza and Slim played together over the offseason and quickly grew to appreciate each other’s work ethic and commitment as Mendoza provided the offensive firepower and OOC Slim locked down opposing ballhandlers. Slim, a consummate professional and teammate, figures to fit in perfectly with the Uprising.

“Slim is a high character guy,” Mendoza said. “I really like his work ethic; he brings it every day. We have great chemistry, and I was really excited that we were able to draft him.”

While Mendoza has a pre-existing connection with Slim, he also began to develop chemistry with protected players Kenny and Trey over the offseason. He’s played Pro-Am with Trey since the release of NBA 2K19, winning a top amateur league championship, and also played alongside both Kenny and Trey on other games.

“The chemistry’s there,” Mendoza said. “That attitude, that chemistry, is just perfect for us.”

The chemistry is locked in. The Raptors are now intent on making the mixture work on the court.