Plenty of Canadians have been given workouts with the Toronto Raptors in recent years, as the number of NCAA players from north of the border keeps growing. But brothers Thomas and Philip Scrubb are a rarity – players getting that invitation out of a Canadian university.
After winning five national championships in five years at Carleton University, the two most well-known Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball players were among the 21 invitees at the Raptors' two-day, free agent mini-camp this week. Their goal is to land spots on NBA Summer League teams, where they can show how they stack up.
"Where would the [CIS] fall in the NCAA tiers? It's hard to compare that," said Dan Tolzman, the Raptors' director of scouting. "You see [the Scrubb brothers] out here competing against guys in their mid-20s, high 20s and they're holding their own against them."
Older brother Thomas, a 24-year-old forward who stands 6 foot 6, is a two-time CIS defensive player of the year. His brother, 22-year-old Philip, is a 6-foot-3 guard who scored 88 points in Carleton's most recent three-game romp through the CIS Final 8 tournament, including 28 in the championship game – plus 10 assists – and was chosen finals MVP.
If they exhaust the NBA route, they will consider playing pro in Europe. While this is the only NBA workout scheduled for Thomas, Philip also has others booked with the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks.
"[I want NBA teams to know] that I'm a hard worker and that I can play at the professional level," the younger Scrubb said after Thursday morning's session. "I do come from a disadvantage, having played at a Canadian university, so I'm not as well known as some of these guys, but I can compete with them and play at their level."
The Scrubbs have faced lots of elite competition. Both have played internationally for Canada against NBA players. Carleton regularly played exhibition games against U.S schools including Syracuse, Texas Christian and Cincinnati.
"They're both pretty intriguing because they have such high IQs," Tolzman said. "They are two guys that have been so well coached. They'll be able to plug them in, download what we're looking for and they'll be able to execute every single time. On top of that, they make the right plays. They make the correct pass. They basket cut. They do a lot of the little things that don't show up in the box score in addition to shooting well and playing good defence."
While many CIS graduates have played professionally abroad, only two have ever appeared in an NBA regular-season game. U.S.-born Brian Heaney, who had played for Acadia, spent some of the 1969-70 season with the NBA's Baltimore Bullets. Jim Zoet of Uxbridge, Ont., who attended university at both Lakehead and Kent State, appeared in seven games for the Detroit Pistons during the 1982-83 season.
"If you think about who's watching and who you're playing against, it will throw you off," the older Scrubb said. "I'm not thinking about being a CIS player; I'm just focusing on what I need to do to get better every day."
There are three other Canadians at this free agent camp, all undrafted in recent years. Toronto's Olu Ashaolu, an Oregon grad, has been playing in Japan. There are also two NBA D-League players: Montreal's Khem Birch, a UNLV product playing with Sioux Falls, and 7-foot-2 Calgary big man Jordan Bachynski of Arizona State, playing for Westchester.
DeAndre Daniels, the 6-foot-9 UConn forward whom the Raptors drafted in the second round last year, 37th over all, is also in this camp. He played Summer League for the Raptors last year and remains in Toronto's system, but was encouraged to play last season for the Perth Wildcats of the National Basketball League in Australia. He is likely to join young Raptors Bruno Caboclo and Lucas (Bebe) Nogueira on this year's Summer League team.