'Dream bigger': Newest member of Toronto Raptors hopes to be role model for kids in Rexdale

As the newest member of the Toronto Raptors—and the first Canadian drafted to the team—Dalano Banton hopes to be a role model for kids in his old neighbourhood.

The six-foot-nine and 204-pound guard grew up in Rexdale, near the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Mount Olive Drive. While speaking with reporters on Sunday afternoon at his first news conference as a Raptor, Banton said that his upbringing in that neighbourhood made him the person he was today, describing the community as a “tight knit family.”

“I feel like just having to pick the image of like Canada or Toronto or wherever, it just has this only this one side of it, where everyone's like, super nice, but not understanding that there's real neighborhoods where you have to come out and you know, put on like a tough face,” he said.

“You have to bet on yourself and believe in yourself. Because if you don't, you know, no one's going to do it for you. I learned that at an early age and just to put my mind to something and keep going.”

For Banton, who said the Toronto Raptors was his “favourite team” growing up, this moment was a dream come true, especially for a kid who started his career playing across the street from where he lived at the Rexdale Community Hub, and then the North Kipling Community Centre.

“Just being able to take advantage of those community centers to just keep yourself off the street, keep yourself out of trouble you know, I feel like that was the blessing for me that I had those community centers to just keep me in the gym,” the 21-year-old said. “The same gyms that you're going to today could go a long way if you just keep your mind to it. So it's not about where you are, it's about where you plan to be.”

“Dream bigger, you know, plan to live bigger. That's what I always did.”

Rexdale Dreams @DALANOBANTON

Open Gym: Moment presented by @Bell pic.twitter.com/cUYyj3YHAg

— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 30, 2021

Banton even kept his neighbourhood in mind when choosing his jersey—a tribute to the 45 Kipling TTC bus he often took while in Rexdale.

“When I was trying to think of a number that means something to me, I was kind of getting tired of just wearing numbers. I feel like you can always make meaning of something, so I felt like once that clicked to me it stuck,” he said.

During his sophomore season for Nebraska last year, Banton averaged 9.6 points, 3.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds.