The Canadian invasion of college basketball has been a multi-year development, and seeing Canucks play pivotal roles in top programs has become a regular occurrence. This was on full display last year when Canadians Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis, and Chris Boucher (a key contributor before being injured) lead the Oregon Ducks to a Final Four berth, cementing the relevancy of players from north of the border. Let’s take a look at the Canadians ready to have exemplary seasons in college basketball this season.
Being an accomplished four-star recruit coming out of high school, Koby McEwen raised some eyebrows when he declined offers from Power Five conference teams like Baylor, Wake Forest, and Ole Miss to attend Utah State. Judging by his freshman campaign, he made a great choice. Averaging 14.7 points, 3.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds with the Aggies, the 6’3” 190-pound McEwen earned himself a starting position, becoming the first true freshman to start for the team in five years. While many freshmen struggle to earn the trust of their head coach, McEwen quickly earned a reputation as a responsible guard on both sides of the floor. Though his versatility is evident, his number one skill is even more apparent. The primary spacer for the Utah State offense, his 42.8 percent from the three-point line was a truly remarkable number for a first year. Having so much usage and production as a freshman, evading the dreaded sophomore slump should be no problem for McEwen. Look for him to continue to dominate the Mountain West Conference this year.
After a season of accomplishments like America East Conference Player of the Year, Honorable Mention All-American, and surpassing 1,000 career points, University of Vermont junior Trae Bell-Haynes threw his name into the NBA draft to gauge interest in his pro potential. Luckily for the Catamounts, he chose to withdraw and return for his senior season. The 6’2”, 170-pound point guard will be tasked with leading a talented team that returns four starters and is desperately hoping to return to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. The trusted leader of the Catamounts’ attack, Bell-Haynes averaged 11.2 points, 3.9 assists, and 2.1 rebounds while chipping in defensively with 1.1 steals. A pass-first point guard, more shots are expected than the 8.2 field goal attempts he had in his 27.6 minutes per game. With Vermont being a trendy mid-major team entering the 2017 season, look for Trae Bell-Haynes to be the centerpiece of an exciting team to watch.
The Atlantic 10 Conference is going to produce some of the nation’s most exciting basketball this year, and one of the league’s gems is Montreal native Joseph Chartouny of the Fordham Rams. After winning A10 Freshman of the Year in 2015–2016, Chartouny followed up that stellar performance with a rock solid sophomore season averaging 12.1 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. Capitalizing on the recognition of his all-around game, Chartouny tested NBA waters by declaring for the draft without hiring an agent. Ultimately, he decided to return to New York City for his junior year. Though a special player with the ball in his hands, his biggest calling card might be his disruptive defensive play. Averaging a stifling 3.2 steals per game, good enough for third-best in the country, Chartouny’s sneaky hands kept opposing point guards second-guessing their every move on the court. A high achiever both on and off the floor, Chartouny was a member of the A10 All-Academic team, showing heavy commitment to the classroom and making him an easy student-athlete to cheer for. If you’re looking for some great basketball outside of the Power conferences, be sure to sure to find an A10 league game and see Joseph Chartouny work his magic.
After dwelling in the basement of the SEC for the last several seasons, Missouri made a huge splash in the offseason by hiring coach Cuonzo Martin. Bringing in Martin, formerly at Washington, meant bringing in the No. 1 rated recruit Michael Porter Jr., and his brother, Jontay Porter. In the midst of this drastic improvement by the Tigers, one of the most impactful graduate transfers of the season has fallen under the radar. Toronto native Kassius Robertson, after three successful seasons at Canisius, is a proven scorer bringing backcourt firepower to match top frontcourt recruits. Averaging 16.1 points a game while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, Robertson will be constantly pressuring defenses from the guard spot and forcing opponents to pick their poison between him and the explosive big men on the inside. With all eyes on the Missouri Tigers to see coveted NBA prospect Michael Porter Jr., Kassius Robertson will have every opportunity to dominate on some of college basketball’s biggest stages.
The college basketball world was introduced to Kimbal Mackenzie in a big way during March Madness last season when Mackenzie’s Bucknell Bisons nearly upset a mighty West Virginia team in the Round of 64. Facing one of the most terrifying defenses in basketball, Mackenzie hung 23 points on the Mountaineers in a tightly contested 86–80 game that was on upset watch for most of the second half. A technical guard with a pinpoint release, Mackenzie’s sophomore season saw him average 11.9 points while shooting 41 percent from the three-point line and 83 percent from the charity stripe. The Bisons will enter the year as the favorite to win the Patriot League, and you can bet Kimbal Mackenzie will be relied upon to make big shots and lead the offense in their pursuit of some March Magic.
Long, bouncy, and with the ability to shoot threes, the University of Maryland’s Justin Jackson is a Canadian with NBA executives’ eyes all over him. In the mold of the typical NBA wing, Jackson stands at 6’7” with a 7’3” wingspan and a chiseled 225-pound frame. Completing the package, his 44 percent three-point stroke left many scouts salivating at his potential ceiling. Despite being selected to participate in the NBA Draft Combine, he decided to return to Maryland for his sophomore season to polish his game. If his defense, playmaking, and feel for the game progress the way many players’ do in the jump from freshman to sophomore you can be sure he will be at the top of every Big 10 team’s scouting report when the Terrapins roll into town. Be sure to catch some of Jackson’s games while he’s in college before he makes the leap to the professional ranks.
Now for some Canadian recruits ready to make an instant impact in their freshman seasons.
Emmanuel Akot, the 43rd ranked 2017 recruit, reclassified from the 2018 class in order to join a spectacularly talented Arizona Wildcats roster that many have penciled in to a Final Four slot. A versatile 6’8”, 185-pound stopper on the wing, Akot very well could be the final piece that establishes Arizona as a National Championship team.
From the U-19 Gold Medal winning Canada roster that upset the United States, Lindell Wigginton is an electrifying guard that is sure to provide plenty of highlights this year. Joining a school that boasts Canadians Melvim Ejim and Naz Mitrou-Long as alumni, Wigginton will be playing for the Iowa State University Cyclones. Tasked with following in the footsteps of exemplary point guard Monte Morris, Wigginton will have every opportunity to put up stats and develop in the Cyclone’s high-octane offense.
Seemingly always having their pick of top talent, the Kentucky Wildcats decided to look north and bring in 6’5” guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to compliment their compilation of elite recruits. On a team with sky-high talent and expectations to match, Gilgeous-Alexander will be expected to hound the opposing team’s best perimeter talent defensively, and push the ball in transition to the explosive Wildcat wings. Always a candidate to go deep in the NCAA Tournament, expect to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be in some big games when the postseason comes around.
Coming in as the highest-rated Canadian recruit, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (cousins with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) is the 21st ranked player in 2017. An athletic 6’4” point guard, he was highly coveted by many accomplished programs before he chose to sign with the Virginia Tech Hokies. Coach Buzz Williams is notorious for his high-usage point guards, which means Alexander-Walker will have an opportunity to showcase his full arsenal of skills and attract plenty of NBA attention.
From savvy veterans to tantalizing rookies, the Canadian talent in the NCAA touches a vast number of teams. These are just some of the many Canadian exports that will be making waves in college basketball. Look for Canadian fingerprints all over the sport from tip-off in November until the Big Dance in March.