NIKE HOOP SUMMIT: CAN YOU DIG IT?

  

(Photo: Nikehoopsummit.com)

Canada’s own Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and Coach Roy Rana have each been handpicked to participate in the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit. One of the most prestigious high school basketball games on the planet features many of the world’s leading basketball players aged 19-years-old or younger. The premier annual basketball bout sees America’s top senior high school players take on a World Select Team. 

This marks the third straight year Canada has had two players participating in the event. Brampton, Ontario native, Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers’ fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft), played in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit along with Pickering, Ontario native Cory Joseph (selected 29th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs).

 

In 2011, Kevin Pangos of Holland Landing, Ontario and freshman point guard for the Gonzaga Bulldogs of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was part of the esteemed event. Pangos was accompanied by NCAA Kentucky Wildcats’ freshman forward, Kyle Wiltjer. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Wiltjer holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship and has represented the Canadian national program in international basketball competition. 

This year’s World Select Team will be led by second-year Head Coach Roy Rana (Toronto, ON). Rana is a six-year veteran of the Canadian national basketball team. He led the red and white to a bronze medal finish at the 2010 inaugural FIBA under-17 World Championship in Germany. Rana has also led Canada to two bronze medals and a silver medal at the Nike Global Challenge from 2006-09. In his first appearance as bench boss for the World Select Team, Rana and his squad were defeated by the Americans 92-80.  

Bennett (Brampton, ON) and Wiggins (Toronto, ON) have both previously played under Coach Rana prior to last year’s Nike Hoop Summit. Bennett was part on the 2010 bronze medal team at the inaugural FIBA under-17 World Championship in Germany.  

The 6’8″ forward has been playing for Findlay College Prep in Henderson, Nevada where he averaged 16 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this year and helped the Pilots become the second ranked school in America according to ESPN. Bennett helped his Findlay Prep Pilots win the National High School Invitational in Bethesda, Maryland, after beating the Montverde Academy Eagles 86-83 in overtime. Bennett was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds in the championship contest. The seventh ranked player in the Class of 2012, according to Rivals.com, is considering playing college ball for either the University of Washington, Oregon, UNLV, Kentucky or Florida. He’ll likely make his decision after the Jordan Brand Classic, which will be held at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 14. 

Wiggins also played for the 2010 under-17 World Championship bronze medal team, where he netted 20 points in 22 minutes of action in Canada’s 103-83 loss to the United States.  

The son of onetime NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and former Canadian track Olympian Marita Payne, is currently rated the number one prospect for the 2014 recruiting class by ESPN and was named West Virginia Boys Hoop Player of the Year. As a sophomore, the 6’7″ forward averaged 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 blocks per game. Wiggins is being called the best basketball prospect for his age in Canadian history and his skill set is being compared to names like that of LeBron James. With two years of prep ball to be played, Wiggins is already being recruited by Kentucky, North Carolina and his parent's alma mater, Florida State. 

Since the Nike Hoop Summit began in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1995, the United States holds an 11-3 advantage in the affair. The World Select Team last beat team USA in 2009 by a score of 97-89 in front of a record crowd of 11,246.  

One of Rana’s biggest tests in trying to close that gap will once again be the language barrier between he and his international players. With tons of talent on the team, how Rana distributes each player’s minutes might also be somewhat of a challenge. 

As eager as Rana will be to redeem last year’s loss, there’s plenty more to this match than simply coming away with a double-u. The Nike Hoop Summit is an opportunity for talented youngsters to demonstrate their abilities and showcase their skills.  

As of 2011, 125 of those who have participated in the event have been drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA). Some of the more notable players who have partaken in the competition include Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Andrea Bargnani. 

Under the leadership of coach Rana, the Canadian duo of Bennett and Wiggins are expected to attract a lot of attention from not only colleges, but as well as NBA scouts.  

The 2012 Nike Hoop Summit will take place on Saturday, April 7 at the Rose Garden, in Portland, Oregon for the fifth straight year.