The 2013-14 edition of the Wichita State Shockers were one of the best teams in recent memory in college basketball, by far.
While the Shockers ultimately fell to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Round of 32, that was their only blemish of the year. They finished the season with a record of 35-1, running the table in the regular season before falling in the NCAA Tournament.
Gregg Marshall’s squad had the likes of seniors Cleanthony Early, Nick Wiggins, Chadrack Lufile, and Kadeem Coleby, and a slew of young stars who were household names later in their careers. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleetwere both sophomores at the time, while Tekele Cotton was a junior, and Shaquille Morris was only a freshman.
After graduation, the senior class went separate ways. Early was drafted by the New York Knicks, and Lufile was drafted by the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the third round of the NBA D-League Draft. The Canadian big man played just nine games for the Skyforce due to a torn ACL.
Now, his basketball journey has brought him back to where it all started.
With the 2016-17 NBL Canada season under a month away, teams are starting to assemble their training camp rosters, and get the right pieces in place as they embark on the journey towards the NBL Canada Championship.
Even though each team protected six players from last year’s roster at the start of the off-season, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe from off-season moves.
On Tuesday, the London Lightning and the Windsor Express pulled off a trade that will drastically shake up the lineup for both teams moving forwards.
The Canadian Basketball landscape is at an all-time high in 2016, and all signs point to that rise continuing as the calendar switches to 2017.
Pretty River Sports and Entertainment (PRSE) are the owners and operators of several sport and entertainment properties, including the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy in Mono, ON, the Orangevile A’s of the NBL Canada, and the BioSteel All-Canadian Basketball Game, just to name a few.
On Friday, they announced another event that will feature some of the best up-and-coming basketball talent that both Canada and the United States of America have to offer.
The inaugural VANCITY Showcase will take place on March 18th, 2017, and will feature a pair of powerhouse programs. Orangeville Prep (Orangeville, Ontario) will square off against the perennial powerhouse known as Prolific Prep (Napa, California) in the first edition of the showcase.
The talent level of basketball players coming out of Canada over the past few years has been impressive, and there are no signs of that slowing down any time soon.
Several of the top recruits in the Class of 2017 are from the Great White North. Guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (#29 in ESPN’s Top 100) has committed to the Virginia Tech Hokies, guard Lindell Wigginton (#49) has committed to the Iowa State Cyclones, and forward Christian David (#83) has committed to the Butler Bulldogs.
While the future is bright, the present is also just as bright for the game of basketball in Canada.
The 2016-17 season isn’t even two weeks old yet, but there are several Canadians who have looked impressive in the NCAA. Some are in their first years in Division I, while others are experienced leaders on championship contenders.
Don’t look now, but the NBL Canada has quietly become a premier destination for players who are looking to earn contracts overseas or in the NBA.
In the last 18 months alone, a slew of former NCAA stars have taken to the court in Canada, either starting their professional careers right out of college, or with the hopes of re-launching their careers.
Last season, the likes of Brandan Kearney (Michigan State Spartans/Detroit Titans), Sherron Collins (Kansas Jayhawks), Stephen Maxwell (Cal State Northridge Matadors), and several other former NCAA stars were on NBL Canada rosters. Maxwell was named the NBL Canada Rookie of the Year in his first year out of college, and has his sights set on the NBA D-League in 2016-17.
In 2016-17, more NCAA talents are making their way north of the border. The Moncton Miracles added a pair of Division I talents, signing Russell Byrd (Michigan State) and Darius Jones-Gibson (Samford Bulldogs) to professional contracts, while several teams drafted Division I talents in the inaugural All-Canadian draft.
However, it was the Island Storm who made the biggest free agency signing of the off-season so far.
Over the past few years, Canada Basketball has been on the rise on several different levels. From Andrew Wiggins being one of the top young stars in the NBA, to a plethora of Canadians in the NCAA, there are talented players from all over the Great White North leaving their mark on the basketball world.
The start of the season also marks the arrival of a new wave of Canadian talent in the NCAA. Several highly-touted freshmen are from Canada, and have accepted offers from schools all across the United States. They will all be looking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Wiggins, Brooks, Kyle Wiltjer, Anthony Bennett, and plenty of others.