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15 Questions with Lara Oulahen

Before we get to our chat with Lara, the cut finally came down late yesterday and as most fans now know, Luke Jackson is no longer a Raptor.

Even though I thought this was the best case scenario for the Raptors, you gotta feel for Stiffler.

Early this week I had read that Jackson stated he would be "heartbroken" if he was cut. Stuff like that cuts like a knife to me and probably to mos readers who've been oh so close to making a sports team...or hell, getting a job for that matter.

Most years players get cut and I hardly give it a second thought. But last night from the "Land of Talk" concert I was attending, Howland said something that really stuck with me. We were talking about how Luke is getting older and he might have one, maybe two more shots at making the league before he'd have to go to a plan B or C. And Howland mentioned that the myriad of injuries he suffered his rookie year set him back immensely and perhaps even ruined his career.

I got thinking about it and it's true, who knows where Luke would be had he been healthy and kept that explosiveness that he had out of college. He would have been paired with Lebron and while I don't think anyone was expecting Luke to become the next Clyde Drexler, I could see him fulfilling the Sasha Pavlovic role for the Cavs; a good shooter with surprising athleticism. Here's to hoping he gets another shot and finds his way with another club.

In fact...Cleveland may have an opening or two...

With the season around the corner (finally) and the Raptors' home-opener tomorrow night, we thought it only fitting to post our chat with the Raptors' Lara Oulahen. We started our interview with Lara earlier this summer but she was in the middle of her wedding process (congratulations from all of us here at the HQ) so we just recently got to wrap things up.

Here's what she had to say:

1. First off, most Raptor fans remember that you originally started out with the DancePak. How long did you dance for and what was that experience like?

Lara: Wow! That seems like ages ago. This season will be my 8th with the Raptors and I was a member of the Dance Pak for 5 seasons; let me tell you that dancing in front of 20,000 Raptor fans is one of the biggest rushes ever! When I watch the girls dancing now I’m still jamming on the side lines with them and I have such respect for them because I know all the hard work that goes into that 1.5 minute dance routine they do on court.

2. How did you become involved as in the "In-Arena" host?

Lara: During my last season on the Dance Pak we were all approached by Game Operations in regards to this new element they wanted to bring to the game of an in arena Host. I suppose the idea of having to speak in front of 20 000 fans is a little scary so it was myself and another dancer that took on the challenge and started hosting a few contests during the game. Now let me tell you, prior to this I hated public speaking but I knew that this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. After the season was completed I was offered the position of the Raptor in-arena Host and I grabbed it!

3. What sort of preparation do you have to do for each game? Take us through an average game-day.

Lara: Now that this is my 3rd season hosting I’ve really gotten into the swing of things. With a 7pm tip off I get to the ACC at 5:30 where I pick up the game's schedule and scripts. I then go to the change room where I get my make-up done and review all the scripts for the game and quickly memorize any new "hits" or contests. Now, I don’t really memorize a script word for word, I like to get an idea of what the script is about, then when I actually do it I just adlib and make it my own. So in terms of preparation, there isn’t much, I like to do things on the fly. It is more natural.

4. What was the funniest moment you've witnessed as In-Game Entertainment Host?
Lara: The funniest moment(s) are when contestants play Raptors Dizzy Bat Race. This is when we have fans – with helmets on – put their foreheads on the base of a bat and spin around 10 times, then they have to run to centre court and put on a Jersey, grab a ball and then sink a lay up. You can only imagine how disoriented they are after spinning! Watching them run to centre court is a spectacle that gets me in hysterics every time, they are just toppling all over the place...thank goodness for the helmets!

5. Most embarrassing?

Lara: This was hands down the most embarrassing moment of my LIFE! Here’s the’s the first preseason game of 2005 and my very first game as a host and I am extremely nervous. I make my way to centre court with my contestant for Card Sharks (Higher/Lower) and start playing the game. The contestant makes it to the last card, I don’t even remember what the exact card it was but I basically told a fan "Oh, sorry you’re wrong and you’ve lost" when in fact the contestant had won!Okay that doesn’t sound so bad but then the entire ACC erupted in a resonating "BOO" nothing is worse than having thousands of people boo-ing you. Needless to say I carried my own, the contestant walked away a winner and if people didn’t know who I was before, they sure as heck knew who I was after that! Things could only get better from there!

6. Do you get to interact much with the players?

Lara: Not really, I’m always running around so much during the game interacting with all the fans.

7. If so, have any of them tried to steal your job? We were thinking that if Jalen Rose was still with the team he'd be giving you a serious run!

Lara: I have seen Jalen and a few other players on the mic during the Raptors annual Fanfest and I think it’s safe to say they’re all going to stick to playing ball.

8. Do you make any other public speaking appearances on behalf of the Raptors?

Lara: I do as many as I can but it’s sometimes difficult to work them into my working schedule.

9. Ok, now some questions about you...who's your favourite Raptor of all time?

Lara: My favorite Raptor of all time is Jerome the "Junkyard Dog" Williams. He just brought such a great atmosphere into the arena and he’s doing such a great job with all his work in the community. (insert resonating dog bark here)

10. Favourite basketball player?

Lara: Of all time!? YIKES! I’m going to have to be predictable and say that my favorite player of all time is the man that’s highly regarded as the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan. Although I was a mere 3 years old when he made his debut with the Bulls his entire "basketball" career is a continual highlight reel that will enjoyed for many generations to come.

11. Did you play basketball in school or have you always had an interest?

Lara: I was quite the athlete growing up, I played softball, volleyball, basketball, ran track, cross country...and danced. I love all sports but being at a Raptors game is by far the most entertaining sport to watch!

12. Are you still considering a career in dance?

Lara: I threw in the towel once I started hosting and I have no regrets, however I sometimes get the dance bug when I see the girls on the court. I think it’s so funny how your life can throw you a curve ball and I feel like I’ve hit the ball out of the park, never in a million years did I ever think I’d be doing this. I love my job!

13. Where do you think your experience as "In-Game Entertainment Host" will take you? Are you interested in a career in broadcasting or PR?

Lara: I know for sure that this job will open many doors and I’ve learned that whatever opportunities come my way I’ll be sure to grab on and role with it. Broadcasting seems like the next step and I’d be completely willing to give it a shot.

14. We've heard rumours that the Raptors Intro this year will be to the tune of Kanye West's Stronger. Can you confirm? Do you like the choice or were there some other options you had in mind?

Lara: Everyone’s been asking me this and to tell you the truth, I’ve been around a while to see the teams image evolve and all I can say is let’s see what happens at the Home Opener then I can have a real opinion about it. For now all we can do is wait and see.

15. One final question from all our readers, and one we asked Courtney as well. Who is the "mop-girl" with blond hair who sweeps the floors during the games for the Raptors?? Any chance you'll get her to help you out with the in-game stuff next season ha ha?

Lara: Ha, ha, ha, she’s become the ‘infamous’ mop girl...I once had to lend her a pair of my running shoes when she forgot hers; so what I can share from that? I suppose that we may share the same shoe size, or she just wore whatever she could get her hands on since the players shoes would have been too big. In terms of having her help me out next season, I think one should stick with what one knows best ha, ha, ha! I’m just kidding, who knows maybe we’ll incorporate her into a contest: "Mop girl Trivia", "Ready Set Mop", or "Dizzy Mop Races". Ok, I’m done...

Thanks Lara and have a great season!