125 years after Canadian Dr. James Naismith created the game of basketball, his sons are permeating the game more than he could have ever imagined. This past season there were 92 Canadians in NCAA Men’s Basketball, and the number is growing every year. More importantly, these Canadians are taking on bigger and bigger roles on winning teams. Here is a look at north of the border guys who are going to dominate college basketball this year.
Nazareth Mitrou-Long, who goes by Naz Long, is locked and loaded to terrorize Big 12 backcourts and lead the Iowa State Cyclones back to March Madness, where they have been a mainstay the last several years. This Mississauga, Ontario native isn’t the first canuck to take the court for the Cyclones, as fan favorite and Canadian National Team member Melvin Ejim also laced them up for Iowa State. Faulty hips caused Long to shut down after only eight games last season, but an NCAA-granted medical redshirt allowed him another year of eligibility. At age 23, Long will be trusted to lead a team who graduated a boatload of talent and production last year. Naz won’t light up the stat sheet, but his guidance and defensive toughness will ensure Cyclone success.
If you’re looking for a hooper who embodies Canadian stereotypes like being reserved and over-polite, you aren’t going to find it with Xavier Rathan-Mayes. This Florida State sniper, known as “X” to friends and broadcasters, is going to blaze down the court, cross you over, then drain a deep three—and he isn’t going to say sorry.
Rathan-Mayes has a big personality and NBA aspirations, something you’d expect from a guy who played with Andrew Wiggins and Tyler Ennis on several AAU and international teams growing up. His dynamic scoring made headlines against Miami where he exploded for 30 points in 4:38 (seriously, think about that for a minute) in an inspiring comeback attempt that fell short. At 6’4” and 190 pounds, Xavier will be transitioning to more point this year in an attempt to improve his first round draft stock.
Here is extremely exciting news: The Oregon Ducks might be the best team in the NCAA, and they have so many Canadians they might as well be called the Oregon Loonies. Ranked #5 in the country going into the season, I’ve got them pegged to win the NCAA tournament. They start a trio of Canadians that arguably are the best players on the roster.
Their ringleader is Dillon Brooks, who is the straw that stirs the drink, and I will boldly predict he wins Player of the Year in College basketball this season. A versatile 6’7”, Brooks is ready to answer the call at both ends of the floor. He averaged 16.7 points alongside 5.4 boards and 3.1 dimes, while locking down wings and chipping in 1.1 steals a game. It will be very interesting to see if he decides to go pro after this season.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, anticipated Chris Boucher to succeed at the level he did for Oregon last year. A 6’9” beanpole out of Montreal, Boucher was a high school dropout with no college offers, working as a dishwasher to help support his family. His fortunes changed when a Junior College coach saw him dominating a pickup game, which lead to Boucher playing competitive ball again. After quickly developing his game, he won Junior College player of the year in 2014, which led Oregon coach Dana Altman to give him an opportunity.
Despite criticisms of Boucher’s slight frame, questionable basketball history, and unorthodox style, Altman threw him into the starting lineup where he became one of the Pac-12’s best big men. Boucher is a rare combination of shot blocking and three-point shooting. He set a new Pac-12 record this past season as the only player with over 100 blocks and 35 three-pointers in a year. When the Ducks dominates this season, expect Chris Boucher to become a folk hero in the pacific northwest.
The third member of Oregon’s Canadian trio is Dylan Ennis, a transfer from Villanova. He’s a prototypical glue guy that any college team would love to have. Ennis is the older brother of Houston Rocket Tyler Ennis (yes, older brother). Dylan is entering his sixth year of college basketball after being granted two redshirt years. A fellow pass first point guard, Dylan is a reliable distributor that looks to get his team into the offence quickly. Ennis’ veteran savvy could be the x-factor that gets Oregon deep into the tournament come March.
More Sons Of Naismith:
Mychal Mulder might be one of the best kept secrets in college basketball. Playing at Kentucky behind yet another Canadian Jamal Murray last year, this Windsor, Ontario guard didn’t get many minutes. But he was a four star recruit who will have a better opportunity to play now and show his worth.
Joseph Chartouny, a guard from Montreal, won Rookie of the Year in a very talented Atlantic-10 conference for the Fordham Rams, and I can’t wait to see what he follows up with this season.
And finally, these Canadians are on ESPN’s Top 100 recruiting class of 2017:
#29 Nickell Alexander-Walker (Toronto) is going to Virginia Tech.
#44 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Toronto) is uncommitted.
#49 Lindell Wigginton (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) is going to Iowa State.
#83 Christian David (Milton, Ontario) is going to Butler.
Sons Of Naismith is a column on NCAA Basketball from a Canadian perspective.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
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