By Daniel Rocchi
NBA player and former Toronto Raptor Amir Johnson dropped in on Ryerson’s week of welcome festivities at Lake Devo on Tuesday.
Johnson, now a member of the Boston Celtics, was an integral part of the Toronto Raptors team that ended the franchise’s six-season playoff drought in 2014. He was the guest of honour for a meet-and-greet session as part of the NBA’s Campus Pass event presented by the Air Miles reward program.
“I think he was happy to come back, it’s always sort of a nostalgic play for them,” said Air Miles brand manager Nicole Rogers. “These guys are really busy and there’s always a chance that they may not be able to make it, so we were overjoyed that he was willing to come on board and help us out with this.”
There were also basketball games and contests for fans at the makeshift court at Devo throughout the day. Admission was free, but fans were required to sign up for a free Air Miles card in order to enter. Existing Air Miles members could also participate and meet Johnson for autographs and photos.
Between the renaissance of the Raptors, and the recent success of the Rams men’s and women’s basketball programs, Ryerson has become a major setting for the ongoing growth of basketball in Toronto. In July, Ryerson hosted Nike’s annual Crown League summer tournament, featuring teams made up of both professional and amateur players.
“We look at the popularity of basketball in the region and the passion that is there.” Rogers said. We don’t want to set up where people just won’t appreciate the experience.”