Wiggins, Bennett credit Canada's pipeline of talent
Growing up, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett played with or against the best players Canada had to offer. Wiggins teamed with Florida State gunner Xavier Rathan-Mayes at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, for team Canada and for the CIA Bounce AAU team and a number of the Canuck tourney participants are Bounce and/or Canadian national program alumni.
Back in February, Rathan-Mayes, a Toronto native, dropped 30 points in the final 4:38 of a Seminoles loss to Miami. The scoring barrage caught international attention, but perhaps the least surprised person on the planet was Wiggins, a close friend of Rathan-Mayes.
“X is amazing, he's an amazing scorer. I've seen that since high school he's always been like that,” Wiggins said before the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Raptors on Wednesday.
“Once he gets hot, it's hard to stop him.”
Wiggins extended his well wishes to all the Canadian players in the NCAA tournament, which unfortunately does not include Florida State.
“I'm definitely looking forward to seeing all of them (play),” he said.
His current teammate, Anthony Bennett, who was a star at UNLV just two years ago, but before that played with many of this current crop, said having so much talent coming through the pipeline in this country boosted everyone up because the caliber of competition at practice and in scrimmages was so high.
“We always push each other,” Bennett said.
“Just to see them in the spot that they’re in now — they’re playing a big role on their teams. That’s just a pretty amazing thing to do."
Asked which players he would be keeping a particularly close eye on, Bennett threw out some names, before noting how difficult the task was.
“Iowa State, Naz Long (Toronto), obviously. Gonzaga for Kevin Pangos (Newmarket, ON). Kenny Chery, Baylor (Montreal). There’s just a whole bunch. I could go through a whole lot but it’d probably take like (many) minutes.”
With 13 Canadians playing at least 22 minutes a game for their schools, Bennett isn't exaggerating.
UNDER BRIGHT LIGHTS
While most of the scouting for the NBA Draft is long done, the NCAA Tournament gives teams another look or two at how prospects fare under the brightest of lights. Canada's lone team, the Toronto Raptors, likely will draft somewhere between the 19-23 ranges of June's draft. Here is a look at a few of the prospects playing in this tourney that can catch the eye of Masai Ujiri and Co:
- Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky – Kentucky's ridiculous depth up front is only reason Johnson isn't regarded as a star.
- Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky – If the Canadian-born offensive standout drops this far, Raptors would have to think hard.
- Tyus Jones, PG, Duke - Pick-and-roll maestro, but lacks size and athleticism.
- Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Big, tough, stat-stuffing point guard in Jrue Holiday mold.
- Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville – Hard to imagine he'd still be around, the next Amare?
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona – High energy defensive stopper, but is limited offensively.
- Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia – Big-time shooter, but might have to move over to SG in NBA.
- Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU – Makes up for lack of height with massive wingspan. Will take time, but shot-blocker team needs.
- Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin – Solid overall player who can shoot and finish inside. Some see him as a poor man's Chandler Parsons.
- * Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas – He is doubtful, because of a benefits violation, but would be an ideal fit.
Since Indiana went undefeated in 1976, there have been three teams that have entered the tournament undefeated. Here is who the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats will be measured against:
- 2013-14 Wichita State – Round of 32
- 1990-91 UNLV – Final Four
- 1978-79 Indiana State – Runner-up
The next wave of Canadian hoops talent is on the way and the inaugural BioSteel All-Canadian Basketball Game will be the first look at many of them. The game will be on April 14 at Toronto's Mattamy Athletic Centre. Expect to see many members of this list playing in future NCAA tournaments:
- Kyle Alexander Athlete Institute Milton, Ontario
- Jahvon Blair Athlete Institute Brampton, Ontario
- Marcus Carr St. Michael’s College School Vaughan, Ontario
- Christian David Bishop Reding Milton, Ontario
- Jerome Desrosiers Northfield Mount Hermon Montréal, Québec
- Danilo Djuricic St. Michael’s College School Brampton, Ontario
- Eddie Ekiyor New Hampton Ottawa, Ontario
- Jermaine Haley Burnaby South Burnaby, BC
- Justin Jackson Findlay Prep Toronto, Ontario
- Corey Johnson Vermont Academy Ottawa, Ontario
- Nelson Kaputo St. Michael’s College School Toronto, Ontario
- Abu Kigab St. Francis Hamilton, Ontario
- * Matur Maker Athlete Institute Orangeville, Ontario
- * Thon Maker Athlete Institute Orangeville, Ontario
- Koby McEwen Wasatch Academy Toronto, Ontario
- Jamal Murray Athlete Institute Kitchener, Ontario
- Matthew Neufeld Sunrise Christian Academy Victoria, BC
- Awak Piom Harry Ainlay Edmonton, Alberta
- Jalen Poyser Athlete Institute Malton, Ontario
- Keshaun Saunders Athlete Institute Brampton, Ontario
- Simi Shittu Corpus Christi Burlington, Ontario
- Jordy Tshimanga MacDuffie School Montréal, Québec
- Howard Washington Jr. Montverde Academy Buffalo, New York
- Lindell Wigginton Oak Hill Academy North Preston, Nova Scotia
* Australian citizens