Some of the biggest names in the NBA and NCAA now wear a maple leaf
In the last couple of years, Canada has become a basketball factory. In such a hockey-dominated country, Canada has seen many of its basketball players succeed in the time leading up to their NBA draft year.
The hype actually reached its height over the past two years. Last year marked a historic year for Canadian basketball as the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Canadian forward Anthony Bennett from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with the first pick at the NBA draft. Toronto-native Andrew Wiggins is projected to be a high draft pick in this year’s draft, after playing only one season at the University of Kansas.
In the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) league, the Carleton Ravens won their fourth consecutive national championship and 10th overall. The Ravens started their season in late August as they took on the Syracuse Orange, one of the top university teams in the U.S.. The next day, they beat the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that made NCAA’s March Madness’ Final Four this year.
In this year’s NCAA tournament, there was a record 25 Canadians participating in the annual event. In the first round of the tournament, universities which had Canadians playing for them went 14-2.
Some of the Canadian stars who participated in this year’s March Madness were Syracuse‘s point guard Tyler Ennis, who has a good shot at being a top 10 pick in this year’s NBA draft and Michigan Wolverines’ shooting guard, Nik Stauskas, who led his Wolverines to the Elite Eight where they lost to the Kentucky Wildcats. Stauskas finished the game with 24 points.
The surprising team of the tournament was the underdog Dayton Flyers, who marched to the Elite Eight in the tournament before losing to Florida.The Flyers were led by forward Dyshawn Pierre, a native of Whitby, Ont. Pierre established that he can be a star in the near future.
Many people have been questioning the rise in interest in Canadian basketball. Dwight Walton, a former member of the Canadian national team said that it is in part due to the Internet establishing a role in Canadian players getting more notice south of the border.
“Being able to show off your talent to coaches and scouts via YouTube is much quicker than sending a videotape via the mail service,” Walton said.
Walton also believes that a certain NBA team had an impact on kids wanting to play.
“The Toronto Raptors are the major reason that basketball has taken off in this country,” he said. “They’ve exposed the game to our youth.”
Sites like Basketball Buzz and On Point Basketball have been doing a good job raising awareness for CIS and NCAA basketball to Canadians.
Concordia Stingers men’s forward, Mukiya Post, is very hopeful about the success of Canadian basketball players this year.
“[Canadian] basketball is getting better from [a] young age,” he said.
Canada now must continue on to build on their success. The development of recent Canadian stars, like Wiggins and Bennett, is a step in the right direction, in order for a chance at a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics.