Duane Notice relishes the role of trailblazer, even if he's yet to leave home.
The 16-year-old from Woodbridge, Ont., is bucking a growing trend among elite Canadian high-school-age basketball players, choosing to pursue his ambitions locally rather than going south of the border.
"I want to be one of the guys to do it by staying where I'm from," he said. "If I'm good enough, they'll find me.
So far so good, for Notice, who was introduced Friday as one of the likely cornerstones for Canada's under-17 national team, competing in the first FIBA world championship for the age group.
It's part of a busy summer schedule for Canada Basketball, which is overseeing four teams in various world championships - the under-17 boys and girls, competing in Germany and France, respectively, as well as the senior men's and women's teams, which will be hitting the floor in Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Canada is one of just six countries to have teams competing in all four events, a distinction it shares with the United States, Spain, Argentina, Australia and China. As well, the junior men's and women's teams will be competing in the Tournament of the Americas.
And while Canada is getting ready to compete on a global stage, a disproportionate number those invited to try out for the cadet (under-17) and junior (under-18) teams are training in the U.S. - about half the junior team and 25 per cent of the cadet team - while none of the women's team invitees are training in the U.S.
One of the mainstays of the men's team is Myck Kabongo, an exciting point guard from Toronto who has played the last three seasons at St. Benedict's High School in New Jersey but will finish his high-school career at Findley Prep in Henderson, Nev., which has won consecutive U.S. high-school championships with significant Canadian content in its lineup.
Kabongo's slashing style and desire to get the ball into his teammates' hands has seen him compared to two of his idols: Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics.
Kabongo credits his experience playing against the top competition in the U.S. for his development: he's projected as the No. 2-ranked point guard in the class of 2011 and has committed to attend the University of Texas. He's confident it will translate on an international stage as well.
"Me going there and playing against the best made me better," Kabongo said. "I've played in front of thousands of people, I've played in TV games. [Having guys play in the U.S.]is going to help Canada. I've played against most of the best guys, I know what they bring to the table."
But staying at home has served Notice well, too. He was invited to play in the international game at the Jordan Brand all-star game, and he put himself on the map when he got there, scoring 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds to share most valuable player honours.
At 6-foot-3 and well over 200 pounds, Notice has already drawn comparisons to the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade for his ability to get to the basket, and is now working hard to develop his floor game by becoming a more consistent outside shooter and making plays for others.
He feels he's in a good situation to do just that. At St. Michael's College in Toronto, an elite private Catholic school, he has access to the gym nearly any time he wants, he says, and his coach, Jeff Zownir, has a track record of developing top players. His cadet team coach, Roy Rana, is also a resource, giving him chances to work out under his guidance at Ryerson University.
The hope now, he says, is that his made-in-Canada approach will help him this summer when he takes on the world.
"I want to win gold," Notice said.
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