Canada’s Got TalentPosted: March 12, 2013
One of the most surprising aspects of this season’s unpredictable college basketball season is the emergence of star players from north of the border. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, senior writer Kelli Anderson examines how Canada, a country that has not made the Olympic podium for basketball in 80 years and one that has only produced three All-NBA team selections and two MVPS in history—all of them named Steve Nash, is about to expand its slim record of hoops distinction in this year’s NCAA tournament with Canadian born stars such as Kelly Olynyk (C, Gonzaga), Kevin Pangos (PG, Gonzaga), Anthony Bennett (F, UNLV), Khem Birch (C, UNLV) Junior Cadougan (PG, Marquette) and Nik Stauskas (G, Michigan).
“Compared with players from countries outside North America, Canadians are such a part of the American system now…they have zero transition to make,” says Gonzaga head coach Mark Few (PAGE 49).
Anderson finds that the increase in Canadian born players is due in large part to a generation of youth growing up watching the Toronto Raptors, the improvement of Canada’s club team circuit and the recruitment of top players by U.S. prep schools.
The NBA also has seen a recent uptick in Canadian players. Of the eight Canadians playing in the NBA this season— there have been 24 total — five were drafted in the last two years, including first rounder’s Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph (both drafted in 2011).
“Guys are now seeing what it takes to play at the highest level and not accepting that we’re not a basketball country…You see guys like Tristan and Cory make it to the NBA and now that’s the goal instead of just making it to the NCAA,” says Pangos (PAGES 48-49).
Canada basketball CEO Wayne Parrish calls the recent upsurge in home-grown talent “a tremendous moment,” which he hopes to parlay into sustained success on the international stage (PAGE 48).