‘Ev­ery time you put him in, he does some­thing pos­i­tive’

Rap­tors rookie Jakob Poeltl earn­ing his min­utes

The Niagara Falls Review - - SPORTS - Rlon­g­ley@post­media.com mike.ganter@sun­media.ca

The re­turn of Don­ald­son was just one of the pos­i­tive steps for the Jays on Mon­day as the roster con­tin­ues to round into shape. Se­cond base­man Devon Travis played four in­nings at the po­si­tion in a mi­nor­league game and plans to to do the same on Wed­nes­day. If ev­ery­thing holds up with his in­jured knee, he hopes to ap­pear in a ma­jor league game on Fri­day.

Then there’s right fielder Jose Bautista, who should be back with the team on Tues­day af­ter his Do­mini­can Repub­lic team was elim­i­nated at the World Base­ball Clas­sic.

“And then you’re look­ing at our team,” Gib­bons said. “We’re into the last cou­ple of weeks and you want to see them all to­gether. Kind of makes you feel good.” where his nat­u­ral bas­ket­ball in­stincts come from, but he is very much aware that he has them

“I don’t know,” Poeltl said fol­low­ing a lengthy prac­tice on Mon­day. “I mean, I guess both my par­ents were ath­letes, I was al­ways in love with sports in gen­eral, I was like play­ing around, play­ing bas­ket­ball as a lit­tle kid. But it’s re­ally just in­stincts. I don’t know where it’s com­ing from, I just feel com­fort­able out there and I feel like I know where I’m sup­posed to go.”

Poeltl has sur­passed Nogueira on the depth chart which leaves just start­ing cen­tre Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas ahead of him in terms of min­utes.

Valan­ci­u­nas is more of an old school cen­tre among to­day’s ver­sa­tile big men. Of­fen­sively he’s one of the bet­ter shoot­ers on the team and has ex­panded his range even from last year. He’s still very ef­fec­tive bang­ing with the other tra­di­tional bigs but strug­gles when he has to go out­side to cover a big with shoot­ing range and then re­cover back to the bas­ket.

But Poeltl, even at this early stage in his ca­reer and the ten­der age of 21, is bet­ter equipped for that type of game and will even­tu­ally de­velop him­self into that type of cen­tre that can pull op­pos­ing cov­ers out to the three point line.

At some point the Rap­tors are go­ing to have to make a de­ci­sion on whether they can live with the de­fen­sive lim­i­ta­tions Valan­ci­u­nas comes with. His slow re­ac­tion time and slow re­cov­ery time are not traits Poeltl shares. The Aus­trian is ath­letic and con­sid­er­ably quicker than his Lithua­nian coun­ter­part.

Hav­ing said that, Rap­tors fans would be wise to re­call that last year in the play­offs it was Valan­ci­u­nas, un­til he got hurt in the Mi­ami se­ries, that was putting this team on his back and car­ry­ing them.

Poeltl is still at least a cou­ple of years away from be­ing able to do that.

But down the road, and not too far down the road, it’s not hard to imag­ine Poeltl get­ting that in­tro­duc­tion as the Rap­tors’ start­ing cen­tre.

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