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Ishmail Wainright is well accustomed to the fight. He knows what it’s like to be a basketball journeyman, fighting for the same NBA dream that so many around the world are chasing. He knows what it’s like to move away from home, to spend years away from family, hoping, praying for a chance to return home.

For the past three years, Wainright has been playing in the basketball backwaters first in Germany and more recently in France. It was a trying experience, he said, tough mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But now he’s home — at least relatively speaking — at the doorstep of an NBA contract, fighting alongside Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga for one of two roster spots still available on the Toronto Raptors.

Nothing has been easy about this journey and the past few weeks in Raptors training camp. When training camp started, Wainright was one of six players on partially guaranteed deals fighting for one of three spots. That number has been whittled down as Wainright has watched his old Baylor friend Freddie Gillespie walk out the door without a deal. The three remaining players, excluding Yuta Watanabe who has been assured a roster spot, all deserve a contract, Wainright said.

“We’re all great players, Isaac's a great, Freddie’s a great player, Sam’s a great player, Reggie [Perry]’s a great player, Yuta. Just great players in many different aspects of the game,” Wainright said.

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The argument in favor of Wainright is both obvious and sort of complicated. On one hand, he fits what the Raptors are looking for on their roster. He’s a 6-foot-6, 250-pound forward built like a freight train with a defense-first mindset who can do a little bit of everything at a back-of-the-rotation level. At the same time, though, Toronto’s roster is full of players like that from OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam to Scottie Barnes, Justin Champagnie, and Watanabe. Do the Raptors really need another?

No matter what decision is made, Wainright is ready for it. He said he’s done everything he possibly can over the past few weeks to prove he deserves a spot and he’s at peace with whatever comes.

“I’m not going to hang my head,” he said. “My parents and my family always told me once one door closes another one opens up. So I’m coming out of this a better man, a better basketball player, a better person, period.”

Further Reading

No matter what the Raptors decide, Sam Dekker is finally at ease

Who should the Raptors start? Goran Dragic or Gary Trent Jr.

Sam Dekker & Ishmail Wainright make final cut decisions very tough in Raptors victory over Wizards