14 years ago Villanueva made Raptors history


You can be forgiven if you don't remember the Raptors game on March 26, 2006.

It was an almost entirely forgettable game. The Raptors — amid a 27-55 season — lost 125-116 to an almost equally bad Milwaukee Bucks team that finished the year 40-42.

Even after the game, Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith wrote:

"In the grand scheme of things the outcome of the Raptor game here yesterday really isn't going to matter - the 70th game of a non-playoff season is hardly one that will stick in anyone's mind."

But that night did have something strangely special happen. Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva etched his name in franchise history, scoring a rookie franchise record 48 points.

Watching the old film, Villanueva looks like he was way before his time. He put up 11 3-pointers in the game, connecting on six of them. He played a beautiful pick and pop game with Mike James at the 1:38 mark of the clip below and when the Bucks didn't fly out to the perimeter to respect his shooting, he dials it up from deep.

In the history of the NBA only 12 rookies have scored more points in a game. The list is astonishing: Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Earl Monroe, Elgin Baylor, Brandon Jennings, Elvin Hayes, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Kelly Tripucka and Trae Young. That's nine hall of famers, Young, and then Villanueva.

Looking back on that 2005-06 year, Villanueva was something for Raptors fans to get excited about. The seventh overall pick was second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chris Paul, made the First Team All-Rookie team, alongside Paul, Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams, and only Paul averaged more points than Villanueva who put up 13.0 points per game.

Yet three months after Villanueva's incredible game, the Raptors dealt the fan favourite to Milwaukee for T. J. Ford. It was a puzzling move, but general manager Bryan Colangelo was determined to make to fill what he thought was a vacancy at the point guard position.

Following Villanueva's rookie year, the Raptors brought in his replica, drafting Andrea Barngiani with the first overall pick. Jose Calderon eventually came into his own as the Raptors lead guard and T. J. Ford was dealt Jermaine O'Neal and the pick that became Nathan Jawai.

Villanueva never really became the player he showed he could be on that March night 14 years ago today. He had a few solid seasons with the Bucks before finishing his career as a bench player for the Mavericks.

Ultimately, he retired at the end of 2016, not having busted the way some predicted, but never quite living up to the draft price Toronto paid for him.