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Lee is frustrated that he doesn't draw athletes from Canada, who seek U.S. representation

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Bernie Lee is at the top of his game. After 14 years as a basketball agent, the Toronto entrepreneur has built a client roster that includes NBA players as well as athletes signed with professional teams abroad. His company, Lee Basketball Services Ltd., consistently makes industry lists of top agencies.Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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One of Mr. Lee’s clients is John Lucas III, a point guard for the Detroit Pistons.

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Another client is Toure’ Murry, right, a guard for the Washington Wizards. Today, Lee Basketball Services represents 17 athletes, including four NBA players. That may not sound like much, says Mr. Lee, until one looks more closely at the industry’s numbers. Of the roughly 1,900 certified agents, only 105 represent one or more of the 450 players in the NBA.

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Another of Mr. Lee’s clients is D’Angelo Harrison, seen here driving to the basket. For the upcoming 2015-16 season, he has signed to play for Uşak Sportif in Turkey.ANTHONY J. CAUSI

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Jahmar Thorpe plays for Hokkaido in Japan. While Mr. Lee has clearly made it as an independent sports agent, there’s a peculiar aspect to his success: Lee Basketball Services has no Canadians on its roster. “The number one response I get from Canadians is, ‘Wow, I didn’t know there were Canadian agents,’” says Mr. Lee, who is among just a handful. “There’s an inherent bias among today’s players and players’ parents that if they want to succeed on a higher level, they need a U.S. agent.”

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Sean Williams is a center who has played for the Nets, Mavericks, Celtics, and Rockets.

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Mo Charlo is a forward who has played in the NBA Summer League, The NBA D-League, and some of the top leagues in Europe and Asia. He has since signed to play in Japan.

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For Mr. Lee, gaining credibility in his own backyard has become a challenge – one that is magnified by the rapidly growing pool of home-grown basketball talent. “Canada is a huge hotbed of basketball talent right now,” says Mr. Lee, whose business has grown from a one-man operation to a four-person team. “How do I strip away that bias toward U.S. agents so that people can see me, my track record and knowledge base, and understand that I can represent them just as successfully as a U.S. agent?”Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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