NBA Draft: Dayton’s Camara picked late in second round

Forward from Belgium is third Flyer in last six years to be drafted

Former Dayton Flyers forward Toumani Camara heard his name called around 12:30 a.m. Friday late in the second round of the NBA Draft.

The Phoenix Suns drafted Camara, a 6-foot-8 forward from Brussels, Belgium, with the 22nd pick of the second round. He was the 52nd player drafted overall out of 58.

Camara attended the draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was shown on the ESPN broadcast hugging his mom, Anne Le Docte, and brother Tidiane Camara before walking onto stage, where he put on a Suns hat. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant, associate head coach Ricardo Greer, assistant coach James Kane and guard Kobe Elvis also attended the draft and posed for a photo with Camara after the draft.

Most experts saw Camara as a second-round pick, though few predicted the Suns would draft him.

“He’s agile,” Jay Bilas said on ESPN broadcast. “He’s got good feet. He’s got long arms. He’s a really good rebounder, and he’s a very good defender with that 7-foot wingspan. He can switch out. He can block shots. But his rebounding is really really good.”

Camara was the only player from the Atlantic 10 Conference drafted and one of three from an Ohio college, following Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh (No. 28 overall to the Utah Jazz) and Xavier’s Colby Jones (No. 34 to the Boston Celtics but traded to the Sacramento Kings).

Camara will try to make the roster of a team that finished 45-37 last season. The Suns fired Monty Williams after four seasons. The new coach is Frank Vogel, who previously coached the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Camara was the only player the Suns drafted. Earlier in the day, news broke of the Suns finalizing a deal to acquire three-time All-Star Bradley Beal, plus Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd, from the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul and Landry Shamet.

Camara is the first Dayton player drafted since the New York Knicks took Obi Toppin with the No. 8 pick in the first round in 2020. Three players who have played for coach Anthony Grant at Dayton have been drafted: Camara; Toppin; and Kostas Antetokounmpo, who was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the 60th and final pick of the 2018 draft.

Camara came to the United States when he was 16. He played high school basketball at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood, Fla.

Camara played two seasons at Georgia. He started 23 games as a freshman and 25 as a sophomore, averaging 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in two seasons.

Camara transferred to Dayton in April 2021. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in his first season at Dayton and made the All-Atlantic 10 Conference third team. He started 34 of 35 games, missing only a game at La Salle with an injury, for a team that finished 24-11.

Camara averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds in his second season at Dayton. He made the A-10 first team and the all-defensive team and shared Dayton’s team MVP award with DaRon Holmes II. He was the only player honored on Senior Night.

“He’s been terrific,” Grant said then. “I’m proud of his growth and the way he’s bought in to everything my staff, his teammates and the program has asked of him. He’s s a great leader, a great teammate and a joy to coach so we want to make sure we send him out on Senior Night the right way.”

Camara announced April 24 he had entered his name in the draft. On Twitter, Camara wrote, “Closing a new chapter in my life. Looking forward to what’s next.”

Under that, Camara addressed a letter to Flyer Nation.

“I want to thank all of you for these amazing two years,” Camara wrote. “It’s been an honor to wear Dayton across my chest. I was able to learn so much about myself. I truly believe that I learned who Toumani Camara is, as a man, on and off the court.

Camara boosted his draft prospects with his play in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in three games and made the all-tournament team. In May, Camara averaged 12.0 points in two games at the NBA Draft Combine.

Camara worked out for the Indiana Pacers on June 2 and worked out for them again on Monday.

The Boston Celtics were the only other team Camara worked out for twice.

Camara had a workout with the Charlotte Hornets on June 5, the Atlanta Hawks on June 6 and the Golden State Warriors on June 8. He worked out for the Portland Trail Blazers on May 22 with a group that included his former Dayton teammate, DaRon Holmes II.

Camara will seek to become the 24th former Flyer to play in the NBA. That list includes: Don Meineke (1952-57); Chuck Grigsby (1954-55); Chris Harris (1955-56); John Horan (1955-56); Jim Paxson Sr. (1956-58); Jim Palmer (1958-61); Bucky Bockhorn (1958-65); Henry Finkel (1966-75); Roger Brown (1967-75); Bobby Joe Hooper (1968-69); Don May (1968-75); Donald Smith (1974-75); Johnny Davis (1976-86); Jim Paxson Jr. (1979-90); Sedric Toney (1985-90); Negele Knight (1990-99); Chris Wright (2011-14); Chris Johnson (2012-16); Brian Roberts (2012-17); Charles Cooke (2017-18; Jordan Sibert (2019); Kostas Antetokounmpo (2019-21); and Obi Toppin (2020-present).

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