LAS VEGAS – Phoenix Suns bench players rose from their seats and the crowd erupted as Grant Sherfield’s pass split the Milwaukee Bucks defenders into the hands of Toumani Camara, who levitated over 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall for a powerful right-handed dunk.
The highlight would be one of few in the Suns’ 84-75 loss to the Bucks in the team’s 2023 NBA Summer League opener Saturday.
All eyes were on Camara and he did not disappoint. Selected 52nd overall in June’s NBA draft, the rookie opened the first quarter with 11 points and five rebounds and finished the game with 20 points and eight rebounds to make a statement that he’s NBA-ready.
“I think I showed that I belong in this league,” Camara said. “There are some small details that I need to pay more attention to like boxing out and I think their (Bucks) offensive rebounding is what beat us.”
Camara’s versatility was on full display and should give Suns fans optimism. He covered wings and bigs, hit mid-range shots and finished strong in the paint over bigger players.
“(Camara) did everything we asked him to do,” Suns summer league coach Quinton Crawford said. “We use him as a Swiss Army knife, he can bring the ball up the court, play the five and do a bunch of different things for us.”
On a Suns team loaded with offensive talent like Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and newcomer Bradley Beal, Camara’s defensive ability will prove important as more and more NBA teams switch defenders looking for mismatches.
“He is embracing all the challenges at the different positions I am putting him at,” Crawford said. “I ask him to guard Tacko Fall, he doesn’t shrug his shoulders. He is going to do whatever we ask of him.”
Camara also showed that he can learn on the fly. After Fall blocked his layup attempt earlier in the game, he went up strong for the highlight dunk in the fourth quarter.
“You have to go up strong when you have big guys like that in the lane,” Camara said. “I went up soft one time and he blocked me so I knew next time I was going to go up strong and throw it down.”
Even though Camara is 23, he has shown leadership and growth just weeks after becoming the Suns’ only draft pick in June.
“Toumani is phenomenal,” Suns center Trey Jemison said. “His versatility on defense, handling the ball, he does a great job. His growth in his mid-range game and defensive awareness translating into games from practice has been huge.”
With the recent signings of Keita Bates-Diop and Yuta Watanabe, Camara will have to earn his playing time on a team ready to compete for an NBA championship, but he is not shying away from the challenge.
“He is a good player and is going to do whatever it takes to win,” Crawford said. “If he can continue to be a good screener and roller he is going to have a long NBA career.”