Photo Couresy of:

Canada basketball
Libaan Osman

Charles Bediako embarks on NBA journey after years with Canada Basketball



Jul 25, 2023

In a hotel room in Las Vegas, Canadian big man Charles Bediako has to pause for a moment to think long and hard about the number of times he’s represented his country playing basketball.

After declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft and earning himself a one-year contract with the San Antonio Spurs on an Exhibit 10 deal, Bediako isn’t suiting up for Canada Basketball this summer for the first time since his early teenage years after wrapping up his first NBA Summer League experience.

“It’s weird,” Bediako admitted. “Every year, I’m doing something with Canada Basketball.”

If you ask the Mississauga native, he’ll tell you he’s at least in the conversation for the most appearances as a Canadian in underage play with a total of six. 

When he was 15 years old, Bediako travelled to Argentina to represent Canada for the first time during the FIBA U16 Men’s Americas Championship 2017. Every year since, he’s spent some time with Canada Basketball, even receiving an invite to attend and watch the senior men’s national team training camp in 2021. 

The 20-year-old centre got the chance to learn and pick the brains of current NBA guys like Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk.

Those who have coached Bediako under Canada Basketball have considered him a valuable rim protector, rebounder and lob threat during his years with the program. When the six-foot-eleven centre accepted an NCAA scholarship offer to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2021, he made sure to let the team know beforehand how important playing for his country every summer was to him.

“Alabama understood when I went to commit there I said, ‘My national team stuff I got to do,’” said Bediako. “If they need me I gotta go. That’s just the (relationship) I built with them.”

Bediako’s last appearance with Canada Basketball was during the inaugural GLOBL JAM tournament in 2022 that featured some of the best U23 prospects in the world — which also just concluded its second-straight year at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

Michael Meeks, Canada Basketball’s Assistant General Manager of Men's High Performance, says the success former players have had in the tournament has led to up-and-coming Canadian talent inquiring how they can be part of Canada’s next GLOBL JAM roster.

“That’s exactly what we want,” said Meeks. “We want to just create opportunities to give more athletes chances to play and more people in our country opportunities to actually watch the game be played at a high level.”

Just the other day, Bediako ran into fellow Canadian and former GLOBL JAM teammate Leonard Miller of the Minnesota Timberwolves in their hotel. Others that were in Las Vegas for Summer League from last year’s crop of GLOBL JAM talent include Canadian Marcus Carr, Brazil’s Yago Dos Santos and USA’s Keyonte George. 

For Bediako though, his journey landing a roster spot on San Antonio’s Summer League team saw him audition for 16 different NBA teams during his pre-draft process, travelling coast to coast on at least 30 different flights.

He decided to keep his name in the NBA Draft in late May after an impressive sophomore year at Alabama that saw him be selected on the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) all-tournament team, helping Alabama win the 2023 conference tournament.

Bediako still took a risk, knowing there was a chance he might go undrafted. Bediako had his sights set on the NBA since he was in Grade 10, growing up battling against his older brother Jaden, who he credits for his competitive fire.

“If you really love this game then you’ll put all the work you need to put in,” said Bediako on the advice his brother gave him growing up. “Nothing’s ever been given to you. You just got to go and earn it.”

Meeks remembers how relentless both siblings were in trying to improve as young players, getting on a bus and travelling halfway across Toronto from Brampton to Humber Lakeshore where Canada Basketball held training sessions.

Jaden has represented Canada on five different occasions, most recently at the FIBA U19 Men’s Basketball World Cup 2019. Their sister Jade also just won bronze for Canada’s U19 Women’s National Team on Sunday at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. 

On draft night when Bediako didn’t hear his name called, Jaden reminded him how proud he was of younger brother, letting him know that the real work begins now.

“Everything you do now, you’re fighting for a contract,” said Jaden. “Be a sponge, ask questions, learn and take care of your body. That’s your money maker right there.”

Despite going undrafted, Bediako had several NBA teams interested in signing him to a contract. He became known as a defensive specialist during his two years at Alabama, becoming one of the best-shot blockers in the NCAA.

After weighing his options, he decided on San Antonio due to their track record of developing bigs and their culture. 

“Guys just want to work,” said Bediako. “(They’re) basically blue-collar guys and at Alabama we hung our hats on being a blue-collar guy and just wanting to work and having a good attitude.”

In Bediako’s final Summer League game, he dropped 17 points and hauled in 11 rebounds in 27 minutes for the Spurs. 

He isn’t alone in hoping to make his mark on the league. Alongside Bediako in Summer League were about 14 other Canadians playing hoping to catch the eyes of NBA teams.

“We’re not done yet. I feel like we’re just still going to be coming and growing,” said Bediako. ”Us Canadians, we’re [putting] our country on our back while we’re in the NBA, just showing younger kids that they can do it too.”