Canada: so long a basketball backwater, no longer.
There is talk of a golden age. The number of Canadian men in big-time basketball in the United States has jumped over the past decade to record heights, as recruiters look north to bolster National Collegiate Athletic Association rosters, and the best of college players crack the NBA.
In the immediate U.S. college spotlight is Kelly Olynyk, the seven-foot star at Gonzaga University. His immediate predecessor in the Gonzaga post, Robert Sacre, is now a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers.
An even bigger name is Tristan Thompson, who, at 22, is only a month older than Olynyk. Two years ago, Thompson was a No. 4-overall draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the highest ever for a Canadian. In his second NBA season, Thompson has been booking, on average, almost a double-double (points and rebounds).
There are many others: Forward Anthony Bennett (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) is considered a potential top-five pick in the 2013 NBA draftafter a stellar freshman season. Guard Myck Kabongo (Texas) is also a first-round possibility. Atlantic Coast Conference’s top rookie Olivier Hanlan (Boston College) set an single-game ACC tournament record for a freshmanlast Thursday, scoring 41 points.
Those coming up soon include Andrew Wiggins, this year’s top high-school recruit, and Trey Lyles, likely next year’s top recruit.
Canadian men have played in the Olympics twice in the past quarter-century (1988 and 2000), but expect to be in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“We’ve got the potential,” Canada Basketball chief executive officer Wayne Parrish says, “to do some damage there.”