THE NEXT WAVE
The near future of Canada Basketball is looking very bright, but personnel and programs have been put in place to ensure it remains that way. Names like Bennett and Olynyk represent the next step in Canada Basketball’s journey in very much the same way that Thompson and Nicholson took the step before. But what about the following step? And the one after that?
The current youth movement is evident in the core of young players which have learned and grown together in the cadet and junior ranks. There is a group of incoming talent – quality young players both on- and off-the-court that represent the future of hoops in this country.
At 18, Andrew Wiggins still needs to refine his play and grow his game, but there is no questioning the incredible athleticism and high basketball IQ possessed by this young man. In his age-group, his abilities on the court are unmatched and his feel for the flow and rhythm of the game are beyond his years. These are just some of the factors which have resulted in the Thornhill, Ont. native being named the 2013 Naismith High School Player of the Year - an honour once held by men named James and Bryant.
The shy and humble Junior Men's National Team (JMNT) member is a single piece of the greater picture that is coming to the forefront of Canadian basketball. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a teammate of Wiggins on the JMNT and at Huntington Prep, plays with skill and a love for the game that translates into speed and creativity on the court - a style that turns the high school teammates into a potent point-producing pair. The Scarborough, Ont. native is set to continue his basketball career at Florida State University in the fall.
Born in Saskatoon, Sask. and raised in Indianapolis, fellow JMNT member Trey Lyles was recently crowned the Indianapolis City Player of the Year by the Indianapolis City Coaches Association. Tyler Ennis out of Brampton, Ont., plays with St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey where he took home that city's Player of the Year honours in 2012. Ennis - another pillar of this JMNT squad - is slated to join the Syracuse Orange in the coming school year. These four young men are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the next generation of Canadian basketball players, but it is not just about their group and the potential they bring.
Canada Basketball is not simply focused on the next wave, but the flood of talent, energy, pride and skill waiting in the distance. Initiatives such as the Ontario pilot program of the Canada Basketball Junior Academy are aimed at even younger players. The goal is to create a sustainable development program to nurture the wealth of talent in this country. Identified athletes have the opportunity to play with strong regional talent while learning from some of the best youth development coaches in Canada. In targeting younger players, the hope is to foster not only the type of players, but also the type of people that will represent the Red and White for years to come.