Canadians Invade the NBA Draft
On Thursday June 20th 2019, the explosion of Canadian basketball set off a seismic wave when a record 6 Canadians were selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. This amazing achievement has the global basketball community thirsting to find out what new system of basketball development has caused Canada to rise so suddenly as a basketball power. For those of us closest to the epicenter of the explosion, we knew it was going to happen. Canadians have always been hungry and skilled , we just needed a new system with the right opportunities to refine our skills and a platform to showcase our basketball talent to the world!
“The term implosion is used to describe the collapse of a system due to its own flaws in its structure. These flaws lead to an Explosion, a sudden blowing apart of a system.”
Much credit is due to the older Canadian ballers before us. Despite not having a clear path to the highest level of basketball-the NBA, they continued to grind under the old Canadian basketball system. It was in the late 1980’s, as the older heads worked, they prepared my generation through summer tournaments, like the Jane and Finch Classic (Toronto), Martin Luther King (Montreal), the Black Tournament (Nova Scotia), along with local runs like Willie Delas famed George Brown College battle ground. Through these tournaments and runs, the younger ones were taught how to be tough enough to take on any challenge the basketball world outside of our hotbeds had to offer.
Right now the world is looking to Canada Basketball, the sole governing body for basketball in Canada, for the brilliance behind the explosion of successful Canadian basketball players. However, Canada Basketball themselves have yet to acknowledge where the answer to Canada’s success has come from. They have been ignorant to the new system that is responsible for a Canadian National Team men’s rosters filled with NBA talent.
As a matter of fact, in 2006 the early years of the explosion of talent, Canada Basketball looked right past what was taking place in their own backyard and brought onboard famed Italian Basketball General Manager of Benetton Treviso Maurizio Gherardini to help them figure out how to develop the Canadian talent pool. The Toronto Raptors first hired Gherardini in June of 2006, right before they made Andrea Bargnani from Italy, the first European player selected with the top pick in the NBA draft. Canada quickly followed the Raptor’ new direction. Despite Gherardini’s tremendous success in Europe, the Italian system was not the answer for a new Canadian basketball development system or for changing the success of the Toronto Raptors.
In actuality, the answer to Canada’s success at the youth level lays in a shift that took place in the basketball culture in the 1990’s that eventually triggered an implosion of Canada’s previously broken youth basketball system. A basketball system that was adamantly against young Canadian talent utilizing the U.S., (a basketball superpower right next door) for development and competition. A system that did not value the opportunity for our student athletes to earn full ride NCAA athletic scholarships in lieu of the fact Canadian university did not offer athletic scholarships. A system that also made it difficult for our Canadian youth to be recruited by NCAA schools. A system without a professional league for it’s brightest stars to aspire to until 2011, with the start of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC).
“A rising prospect, Birch (Khem Birch) and his mother, Wendy Sparks, sought out a place where the high-flying center could get the maximum exposure and be seen by college – and eventually the NBA – scouts. Because Canadian basketball players had such difficulty getting scholarship opportunities, they chose The Winchendon School in Massachusetts and later Notre Dame Prep just outside of Boston – something that suited Birch just fine.” – By John Denton Feb. 13, 2018
A LOOK BACK LEADING UP TO THE EXPLOSION
Leading up to 2001 the Canadian basketball community was heavily dependent on its governing bodies, (Canada Basketball, Provincial Bodies, USports for Canadian Universities and the High School System) to create opportunities for Canadian athletes and coaches. Young Canadian basketball talent was being encouraged to develop at home playing at local high schools and in within the provincial club system, then into the Canadian University Leagues with hopes of one day playing for our Canadian National Team.
The problem was Canadian ballers had been exposed to the NBA with its glamour, riches, fame and iconic athletes even before the Raptors got here in 1995. We had already fallen in love with NBA teams and their stars. Battles raged amongst Canadian ballers over pledging allegiance to The Laker Show with Magic Johnson or Larry Bird’s Celtics before the whole nation united as followers of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. However there was no clear pathway to the NBA for us Canadians. We could easily see that every NBA roster was loaded with NCAA players and a very small number of International players.
How could we put our hopes and dreams into a basketball system that had no proof it worked. To this day, in 2019, even with the great explosion of Canadian basketball there is not one Canadian baller that has made an NBA roster through the Canadian University leagues (USports). Will NJoku, St Mary’s U. in Halifax Nova Scotia was the last person to come close when he was selected as the 41st Pick of the 2nd Round by the Indiana Pacers but not make the roster. Why would we accept the Canadian University route to follow our dreams? To make it more discouraging, Canadian Universities didn’t even offer athletic scholarships. The impact of the old Canadian system of basketball was felt greatest in the inner-city where we were hungry for a way out. The claims of a greater Canadian education via student loans was not enough.
The old system of Canadian basketball that left many talented ballers feeling alienated, undervalued and discouraged was still being held in place by it’s biggest beneficiaries well into the early 2000’s. The future of Canadian basketball was completely dependent on the successful implosion of an old system that wasn’t working and embracing a new system that utilized our U.S. neighbors as our primary resource for development.
To see how real that previous statement is, just take a look at our Canadian national team program which will likely field a 2019 FIBA World Qualifying Team that will consist of Canadian players that:
- all played NCAA basketball
- all played for a U.S. prep program (or Canadian prep program with a U.S. schedule),
- all played for an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team that competed on a jam-packed U.S. AAU circuit.
Add to that Nick Nurse an American Head Coach of the Toronto Raptors and it becomes very clear the explosion of Canadian basketball has always been directly connected to our relationship with and proximity to the United States.
The additional exposure afforded by modern social media and the internet has also served as a magnifying glass on how much Canadian ballers have integrated themselves into the American basketball machine of AAU, National All Star Games, National Recruitment Camps, Sneaker Companies, NCAA College Scouts, NBA/Pro Agents and now U.S. Prep School network. The new Canadian basketball system is in actuality an assimilation into the American basketball system.
There are some that believe the rise in Canadian Pro basketball skills trainers has been responsible for our increased presence in the NBA, but that is not the answer. Basketball skills training or acquisition of basketball skills at the youth level has existed from the start of basketball. It’s only since the Canadian NBA players first started returning home to Canada that the hot title to wear, whether a trainer is well accomplished or certified, has been “Pro Trainer”.The majority of Canada’s top prospects were taught the introductory skills of basketball by a parent or family member before being further nurtured by a village of club coaches, school coaches and skills trainers on their way to being refined through U.S. basketball competition.
Article by 9News.com Roger Murray introduces his son Jamal Murray (2016, 7th pick of the Denver Nuggets) to basketball:
“My dad put a basketball in my hand and I’ve loved it ever since,” said Jamal. “I had a little tykes net from Walmart and I used to play on it every day and then I got a net in the backyard and I kept continuing.” – Jamal Murray, 9News.com
There was always a need for a change in the old Canadian basketball system. There was quite simply a lack of domestic opportunities for elite level competition, training and exposure specifically designed to prepare players to compete in the NBA. There were a handful of seemingly random success stories about Canadian players that made it to the NBA finishing high school in Canada but the one consistency is that they all played university basketball in the NCAA before being drafted to the NBA.
- Leo Rautins – St Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario, U. Syracuse -Syracuse New York – 1983 17th Pick, Philadelphia 76ers
- Mike Smrek – Eastdale H.S., Welland, Ontario, Canisius College – Buffalo, New York – 1985 25th Pick, Portland Trail Blazers,
- Steve Nash – St Michaels H.S., Saanich, Victoria, British Columbia, U. Santa Clara – Santa Clara, California – 1996 15th Pick Phoenix Suns
- Todd MacCulloch – Shaftesbury H.S., Winnipeg, Manitoba, U. Washington – Seattle, Washington – 1999 47th Pick, Philadelphia 76ers
- Jamaal Magloire – Eastern Commerce H.S., Toronto Ontario, U. Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky
- Joel Anthony – Westmount H.S., Montreal, Quebec, U. Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas Nevada – 2007 Undrafted, Signed with the Miami Heat.
- Denham Brown – West Hill CI, Scarborough Ontario, U. Connecticut – Storrs, Connecticut
Another commonality between these players was that each played for the Canadian National team which for the longest time was Canada’s only global platform for showcasing our nation’s elite. This has always been a huge problem because a whole country of talent vying for 12 precious spots on a national team didn’t always mean the cream would rise to the top. Prior to “the explosion of Canadian basketball” the Canadian National team was shrouded in a web of politics that would see shifts in the makeup of the national teams based on geographic regions and coaching staff. Claims of financial hardship gave excuses for limited invitations and opportunities. As the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame shows, the opportunities were not going to be given to inner-city athletes who had not taken the Canadian University route. With only two Black inductees, Sylvia Sweeney 1994 and Fred Thomas 1995 since 1978 Canada Basketball’s Hall of Fame does not reflect the large number of black immigrants that were grinding away and proudly putting Canada on the map at the ground level
THE NEW CANADIAN BASKETBALL SYSTEM
To understand the validity of the new Canadian basketball system we can start by examining Canadian basketball success at the NBA level starting with the 2011 NBA Draft with Tristan Thompson (selected 4th to Cleveland Cavaliers and first ever Canadian lottery pick) and Cory Joseph (selected 28th San Antonio Spurs) until now, with recent record breaking number of Canadians in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Despite having great success at their respective high schools in Canada. Both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph chose to leave high school in Canada and finish their prep years in America. The duo both eventually ended up at Findlay Prep, Las Vegas, Nevada, a perennial power at the high school level. Here the two friends and Grassroots Canada AAU teammates would accomplish what no other Canadians before them had ever done. They became McDonald’s All American, Jordan Brand All Americans among numerous other national recognition. From Findlay Prep they both accepted a scholarship to U. Texas where they spent 1 year before both entering the 2011 NBA Draft and both being selected in the 1st round.
They were so much a part of the American basketball system that if it wasn’t for them wearing a Canadian national team jersey every summer, the world wouldn’t even know their nationality.
Before Tristan and Cory, many Canadian high schoolers had come close, taking the same route of leaving high school early to America, (Olu Famutimi, Kevin Massiah) but fell short of making it to the NBA. Cory and Tristan’s success on the AAU circuit, at a prep school in the U.S. followed by a tremendous season in the NCAA solidified them early as future NBA stars in the eyes of NBA scouts and General Managers. The new system had finally become a clear Canadian pipeline to the highest level of basketball in the world. When looking at the six 2019 NBA Draft picks they all followed the same blueprint:
- # 3 New York Knicks – RJ Barrett, – Mountverde Academy, Mountverde Florida, Duke U.,
- # 17 Nickeil Alexander-Walker, – Hamilton Heights C.A., Chattanooga Tennessee, Virginia Tech U.
- #21 Brandon Clarke, – Desert Vista H.S., Phoenix Arizona, Gonzaga U.
- #27 Mfionduka Bengele – Don Bosco Institute, Indiana, Florida State U.
- #45 Iggy Brazdeikis – Orangeville Prep Mono, Ontario, U. Michigan
- #54 Marial Shayok – Blair Academy, Blairstown New Jersey, Iowa State U.
In fact, almost all the Canadians selected in the NBA Draft have all played in the NCAA: All Time List of Canadians Selected in the NBA
UNDERSTANDING THE EPICENTERS OF THE IMPLOSION
There have been several cities in Canada that have produced top talent. However, the inner-cities of Toronto and Montreal have produced the largest number of elite prospects What is common in both these cities is that they have both always been bursting with an immigrant population of super athletes that had a hunger for the game of basketball.
“Starving for basketball in hockey-mad Canada, the brothers (Kris & Maurice Joseph) watched Michael Jordan’s ‘Come Fly With Me’ video over and over. And in the summer, when Maurice would report to a 7 a.m. workout with Wong, he brought along his little brother.” – Mike Waters, syracuse.com
Today in 2019 Canada is now the top foreign country for players entering the NBA. The vast majority are the children of at least one parent that is a first or second generation immigrant and have roots in the Greater Toronto Area or Montreal. Jamaal Magloire (Toronto/Trinidad), Joel Anthony (Montreal/Antigua), Nik Stauskas (Mississauga/Lithuania), Anthony Bennett (Toronto/Jamaica), Tyler Ennis (Brampton/Jamaica) Khem Birch (Brampton/Jamaica), Andrew Nicholson (Mississauga/Jamaica), Chris Buchard (Montreal/St. Lucia), Cory Joseph (Toronto//Trinidad), Tristan Thompson (Brampton/Jamaica), Dwight Powell (Toronto/Jamaica), Denham Brown (Toronto/Jamaica), Jamal Murray (Kitchener/Jamaica), RJ Barrett (Mississauga/Jamaica), Andrew Wiggins (Vaughan/Barbados), Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis (Etobicoke/Lithuania), Luguentz Dort (Montreal/Haiti), Shaivonte Aician Gilgeous-Alexander (Toronto/Antigua), Justin Jackson (Toronto/Jamaica), Nazareth Jersey “Naz” Mitrou-Long (Mississauga/Trinidad) …
To pinpoint the start of the implosion of the Canadian basketball system we would have to take a look at where and when the biggest change in the basketball culture took place. In the 1980’s Canadians were trickling across the border into the United States on a scholarship to
NCAA schools, mainly entering NCAA schools closest to the border.
- Wayne Yearwood (Montreal) – West Virginia U., 1984/87
- Dwight Walton (Montreal) – Florida Institute of Technology/Siena 1984-1987
- Trevor Williams (Montreal) – Southern U./St. Peters College 1984-1989
However, some of the biggest names of that era never got a chance to play in the NCAA or get international exposure. With the Canadian National team only fielding one team there was no other platform to expose potential Canadian professional talent.
The 1990’s saw a surge in Canadian ballers Greater Toronto Area and Montreal getting recognized and heading south of the border on scholarship. Much credit is due to Phil Dixon who was hands down the brightest star of the era and was one of the greatest Canadian ballers of all time. Phil Dixon’s star power attracted dozens of NCAA coaches into the city including Hall of Famers Jim Calhoun, U. Connecticut and Rick Majereus, U. Utah into the heart of Toronto. Phil indirectly helped younger ballers like myself achieve our dreams of a scholarship. My coach Richard Ward and I spent many hours splicing together VHS video tapes with scotch tape to make my highlight tape and send it out to any NCAA schools that might be interested in recruiting and athletic Canadian guard. Despite all that effort, it was two schools that we didn’t reach out to, American International College and Eastern Michigan U. that on rumours of great talent in Toronto, came to my games and both offered me a full ride basketball scholarships. This was a pivotal time in Canadian basketball and the many stars of that era from across Canada. Many eyes south of the border were opened to the level of talent in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal but it was still unclear to the world just how much talent and how high the ceiling was in these Canadian hotbeds.
THE IMPLOSION’S BEGINNINGS
Prior to the mid 1990’s. Canadian ballers had started venturing across the U.S. border in search of greater competition but only a few Canadian youth teams dared to go against the grain and compete mainly on American soil. Tony Marcotullio (H.B. Beal, London Ontario, Dave Smarts, Ottawa Guardsmen, Chris VanZyl and Wayne Dawkins (Prep Stars Canada). Chris and Wayne soon split and Wayne would partner with Saeed Al Naji to form Toronto Elite Development (Southern Ontario). The duo of Ro Russell and Bob Marsh brought many Toronto players to the U.S. together before splitting and Ro would form Elite Toronto Development (Toronto).
In the early beginnings, these coaches did not set out to be AAU teams, the goal was to provide the best competition possible, to hone the skills of our athletes and put them in a position to take basketball to the highest levels possible. As Canadian AAU teams we were a novelty to AAU event organizers and a pleasant surprise for teams on the circuit. However, in our own backyard we were direct threat to the provincial basketball club system and a regular target for negativity from the leaders and coaches of the provincial governing bodies
The responsibility of the provincial bodies has always been to keep local talent in the Canadian basketball pipeline. AAU (American Athletic Union) basketball is not a Canadian system. When Canadian AAU teams began to emerge, the provincial and national bodies fought these club teams bitterly in fear of a loss of control and power. The massive club system developed by the provincial bodies controlled the flow of money in the basketball community through sanctioning and control of events, referees, teams, coaching, insurance and anything else related to the playing of basketball in the province.
The Canadian AAU coaches were branded public enemies by the leaders of the old system even though the focus of their AAU teams was either a small group of their local athletes or the for us the immense inner-city talent not being developed by Canada’s governing bodies. Canadian AAU programs were making noise on the U.S. circuit and scholarship offers were piling up. With each successful trip to the U.S. things began to change in a way that would transform Canadian basketball to what we see today. For the governing bodies, their fear that Canadian ballers would see the pipeline was open and the baller’s financial resources would now be prioritized south of the border was a now a reality.
By 2000 Toronto Elite Development AAU (Wayne and Saeed) and Elite Toronto Development AAU (Ro Russell) would emerge as one of Canada’s two mightiest AAU basketball programs. The battleground for Canadian AAU dominance was fought on both sides of the border. In Canada, it was in the inner-city communities of Toronto where the greatest pool of talent existed untouched by the governing bodies. In America, the battle was along the east coast from New York to Florida to be the premier Canadian AAU program. The battle to be the best pushed our athletes and coaches to higher levels but the reality was with a lack of resources to create opportunities for athletes coming from mainly low income and single parent families, we knew the best thing would be to merge. At Rich Marcucci’s-Atlantic Cape Camps an AAU event in New Jersey, Basil Dawkins arranged a meeting between Wayne and Ro and a new organization was formed. One of the players, Junior Reid came up with the name Grassroots Canada and with all in agreement we left as one Canadian AAU basketball beast!
Upon our return to Canada, a team was formed to become the board and executive officers of the new Grassroots Basketball Canada (Wayne Dawkins, Ro Russell, Bob Clark, Jim Cade, Ken Macalpine, Cherilyn Scobie, Saeed Al-Naji and Shane Henry).
- Cherilyn Scobie an Educator for the Toronto District School Board would become our director of Education and work tirelessly to get our GRC student athletes through the S.A.T.’s and eligible in school.
- Bob Clark and Ken Macalpine prominent businessmen would organize us and position us for greater funding and support.
- Jim Cade and Shane Henry both Lawyers put our organizational structure together
- Wayne Dawkins, Saeed Al Naji and Ro Russell would share the responsibility for training, coaching and exposure opportunities.
Learn more here….www.P1JourneyAwards.com
Together we knew an implosion of the old Canadian basketball system was needed and we had figured out the blueprint to give our players the best chance at a free or subsidized post-secondary education. e learned what was needed to be done to give our athletes the best opportunity possible to become professional players. The new system that was being formed would shake up the community and the governing bodies would make Grassroots Canada public enemy #1. This did not stop the new basketball system from being formed and the blueprint would become a clear pipeline for the next generation of Canadian talent to achieve their dreams of playing NCAA and NBA basketball in America.
The Grassroots Canada blueprint to the new Canadian basketball system consisted of:
- Training Centres set up several inner-city community centres, Galloway C.C., Falstaff C.C., Lawrence Heights C.C., Stanley C.C. and Driftwood C.C. meeting place that allowed us to have consistent training of athletes local and from other regions. Even Steve Nash early in his NBA career would make an appearance as a guest instructor for our budding talent pool.
- National AAU travel teams that included the top player from across Canada
- Extensive competition on the AAU circuit and major U.S. events
- Making connections to get our athletes in major U.S. events, and all star games. Some of which also got selected as coaches.
- International competition to expose our athletes to the best competition possible
- Assisting many or athletes to attend top prep programs in the U.S.
- Hosting major recruitment and All Star events in Canada to draw attention from U.S coaches and scouts
- Sneaker sponsorships and alliances to leverage greater opportunities for our athletes
Immediately in 2001 – 2002 Grassroots Canada quickly began to prove the blueprint was a success. Grassroots was competing and beating top American AAU programs and our individual players were beginning to receive major recognition.
- Nike All American Camp Selections – Denham Brown (2001), Aaron Hutchison(2001) and Tristan Martin(2001), Antwi Atuahene(2002), Theo Davis(2002) and Jerry Sokolowski(2002)
- Denham Brown, Tristan Martin and Kevin Massiah, myself as Coach selected to the Pittsburgh Hoops Classic-U.S. National . Our team won and Tristan Martin took the games MVP
2002 Pittsburgh Hoops Classic – U.S. National High School All-Star Game – T.E.D. Alumni, Denham Brown, Wayne Dawkins (Head Coach), Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Tristan Martin (MVP), Kevin Massiah
Grassroots Canada coaches also believed in the importance of international competition for the development of our athletes. Based on history, waiting for Canada’s governing bodies to make it happen for GRC athletes would be a chance we could not afford to take. GRC had a very special group of athletes and the timing was perfect. The talent was there and with the financial support of our executives a team was put together from our training centres to represent Canada at the 2002 World Junior Championships Doaui France. A tryout was held and the final team was GRC players from Jane & Finch, Rexdale, Regent Park and Jungle mixed with a few Markham and Southern Ontario ballers. These fearless players who had never been further than the east coast of North America went to France to represent Canada and won a silver medal defeating Argentinian and Polish National Teams before losing a close battle to a team lead by Carmelo Anthony, Sheldon Williams, Juwad Williams and 4 other high school All Americans
The standout performers for the Grassroots Canadian team at the 2002 World Junior Championships were a 10th grade Jamie McNeilly (U. New Orleans) currently assistant coach of Virginia Tech U., Chris Kraus, the 1st, Canadian NCAA Head Coach at his alma mater Stonehill College, Jermaine Anderson (Fordham U.), Canadian national team veteran and international pro and future 2004/2005 NCAA D1 Champion for U.Connecticut and 2006 NBA Draft of the Seattle Supersonics, Denham Brown. Denham won the tournament scoring title finishing with 44pts in the finals against U.S.A.
The GRC team and coaching staff of Wayne Dawkins, Saeed Al Naji, Ro Russell and Sean Johnson returned from France with no fanfare from Canada. Even though our silver medal at the prestigious international event has only recently been surpassed when in 2016 Canada’s Jr. National Team, won their first gold medal at an international competition. The Canadian team was lead by Head Coach Roy Rana, now an assistant Coach with the Sacramento Kings and 2019 #3 pick of the New York Knicks, RJ Barrett
The Canadian basketball governing bodies and greater basketball community may not have wanted to acknowledge or recognize what GRC was doing for Canada but the major sneaker companies certainly weren’t going to turn a blind eye. Their mission has always been to have their logo on the best basketball players and they knew GRC had all the right talent to represent their brand. Denham Brown with his incredible performance against top ranked prep superstar Carmelo Anthony quickly made him the center of the first Canadian high school basketball sneaker war with Nike and Adidas battling to have GRC part of their sneaker family.
Nike Canada through Marc Eversly, currently Vice President of Player Personnel , Philadelphia 76ers and George Raveling Global Basketball Sports Marketing Director for Nike U.S.A. stepped in and secured the victory in that first sneaker battle and Grassroots became the first Canadian AAU program backed by a sneaker company on both sides of the border. Nike’s backing helped attract even more top athletes and gave GRC exclusive access to all their major events, Since that time the American sneaker companies have dictated the shift in power of Canadian AAU programs
CANADIAN AAU POWERS SNEAKER AFFILIATIONS START UNTIL NOW
- Prep Stars Canada – Adidas Canada –
- Toronto Elite Development – adidas Canada
- Original GRC – Nike Canada and Nike U.S.A.
- P.HA.S.E. 1 – Nike Canada and U.S.A.
- Grassroots Elite – Adidas U S A (Present)
- CIA Bounce – Nike Canada and Nike U.S.A.
- Triple Balance – Under Armour (Present)
- UPlay – Nike Canada and Nike U.S.A. (Present)
In 2002 Grassroots Canada would split and the Ro Russell would form a new Grassroots Elite Canada and Wayne Dawkins form P.H.A.S.E. 1. The directors, players and properties would be split but both sides knew the blueprint. The result was the same with P.H.A.S.E. 1’s athletes joining Wayne Dawkins at West Hill CI where he became a teacher. For the next decade, the P.H.A.S.E. 1 athletes at West Hill would be dominant force in Canadian high school basketball leading the country in scholarship athletes and producing more professional basketball players from a single high school than any other program of that time. Leading the way was Denham Brown and Jevohn Shepherd. Denham scored 111pts in a high school game, received a scholarship to U. Connecticut and selected 45th by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2006 NBA Draft. Jevohn would follow in Denham’s footsteps and earned an invitation to the 2004 Nike All American Camp and the 2005 Nike Hoop Summit before selecting U. Michigan.
Despite constant organizational attacks by the governing bodies the GRC founders continued to grow and become pioneers of:
- the prep school pipeline to the U.S
- local prep programs (T.A.P.S. 2005, P.H.A.S.E. 1 Academy 2010-12)
- prep leagues (NPSAA 2010)
- national AAU travel teams bring players together from coast to coast
- international (2001 Duo France Invitational)
- national all-star games (All Canada Classic 2001-2012)
- major NCAA recruiting events in Canada
- U.S. based Canadian prep program (P.H.A.S.E. 1 Academy 2013-2015)
- major sneaker deals with Adidas and Nike fighting for loyalty
- global high school basketball stars
- playing in major U.S. elite events
Unknown to many is how the union of Canada’s two premier AAU programs in the 1990’s, sprouted branches of the country’s greatest alumni organizations; P.H.A.S.E. 1 Basketball -Wayne Dawkins, Grassroots Elite Canada – Ro Russell, Triple Balance – Shane James and Jemino Sobers), Northern Kings (Videl Massiah), Athlete Institute (Jesse Tippings), CIA Bounce (Co-Founder Mike George) which have produced the greatest collection of NBA, NCAA, CIS, Canadian National Team Players, NCAA Coaches and AAU programs.
To this day, the new basketball system has been duplicated and successfully utilized by Grassroots Canada’s Alumni and adversaries to consistently produce the same results…elite level Canadian basketball prospects.
From the 2001 formation of GRC the organizations alumni of have been staples on Canada’s national team rosters every summer. Although P.HA.S.E. 1 moved it’s base to Phoenix, Arizona the past 7 years 25 of the 36 athletes, coaches and executives that helped Canada qualify for the 2019 FIBA Worlds all were part of a P.H.A.S.E. 1 program along there basketball journey.
A BILLION DOLLARS AND COUNTING
The original Canadian AAU basketball founders and alumni have since been responsible for constructing a clear pipeline for Canadian basketball talent to flood into the United States prep, college and professional ranks. Resulting in over a billion dollars flowing directly back to Canadian families and communities. From the branches of alumni organizations before and after the formation of Grassroots Canada, it is estimated that over $500 Million in basketball scholarship money has been earned by their male and female student athletes. Many of these alumni athletes went on to play professionally and secured massive contracts. $350 Million Dollars in NBA contracts from just these select alumni alone; (Andrew Wiggins ($148 Million), Nik Stauskas ($14.5 Million) , Tristan Thompson ($90 Million), Cory Joseph ($30 Million), Dwight Powell ($37 Million), Andrew Nicholson ($30 Million) . In addition to that, millions of dollars in European professional contracts and millions more in lucrative endorsement deals.
Today Canada Basketball is enjoying the fruits of the new system that it fought against for years. The governing body’s good fortune has been because several of their current leaders learned the blueprint to the pipeline to success for Canadian ballers firsthand. Both Canada basketball’s top Executive Rowan Barrett Sr. and one of their most successful coaches Roy Rana have been close friends of mine from the beginnings of Grassroots Canada and held high ranking positions in P.H.A.S.E.1.
Despite starting out as fierce competitors Roy at Eastern Commerce and me at West Hill became friends and then partners in basketball. Roy taught me how to better coach the game and I introduced him to new system of AAU Basketball and the Canada to U.S.. pipeline. In 2009 Roy would become vice-president of P.H.A.S.E. 1. Together we merged our AAU efforts under Toronto Mission, ran Trainings Centers, events Great Canadian Shoot-Out, All Canada Prospect Camps and when Nike U..S.A. was looking for a Canadian squad to represent we teamed up to Coach a loaded Canadian team lead by Cory Joseph to a bronze medal at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. Soon Canada Basketball would recognize Roy’s talent and now the NBA with his selection to the staff of the Sacramento Kings. Roy Rana has now proven the new system of Canadian Basketball is not just a pipeline for Canadian Basketball players to get to the NBA but coaches.
Former President of P.HA.S.E. 1 in 2005 Rowan Barret Sr. is now the President of Canada Basketball and can be credited for opening the minds of the old regime that were resistant to embracing the new system. The system that was consistently feeding the Canadian national team program and pumping out of it’s pipeline impactful Canadian professional basketball players around the world and most importantly in the NBA.
Rowan never played or coached AAU basketball but he would often visit my West Hill CI teams where he graduated and spent time in Grassroots and P.HA.S.E. 1 training centres and events as a mentor to our athletes. Through these experiences he soon learned that the opportunities we made possible for our athletes in the U.S. and internationally was allowing them to separate from their peers that went through the Canadian provincial club and high school system.
RJ Barret’s rise to the top of Canadian basketball has left many people around the world and in Canada desperate for the understanding of how he got there. For those of us who have been at the epicenter he is a gifted athlete with an incredible work ethic that received the benefits of the new system that was created. A new system that his father was willing to follow the blueprint exactly. AAU, U.S. prep, major U.S. events and international competition. The formula has not changed.
It is even more important at this time of great success for Canadian basketball to be grateful to the pioneers that laid the foundation for what we see today. Thank you to the athletes, parents, organizers, and coaches that believed in the mission of a new system of development for our Canadian basketball youth. A new system that has afforded well over thousand Canadian male and female athletes with a free education. These alumni of the new system are now educated leaders in Canadian communities with a vast array University degrees.
Fortunately, for all the current Canadian basketball superstars, they no longer have to battle Canadian basketball governing bodies or endure the scorn of Canada”s basketball community for using the U.S. basketball system for basketball development and a free education. The new Canadian NBA talent is fortunate to have missed a very difficult era when the mere mention of leaving UConn early for the NBA Draft by a Canadian basketball Superstar Denham Brown drew attacks from Canadian media and leading basketball figures. Now Canadian NCAA ballers forgoing their remaining years of school are celebrated as heroes and role models.
I am even more grateful for the foundational, players, coaches and organizational leaders before me that braved uncharted territories in hopes of a promised land they would never reach. Many of Canada’s basketball pioneers sit quietly with great pride watching as the new generation of Canadian basketball leaders enjoy the roads they paved roads on their journey through the Canadian basketball pipeline stardom and great fortune. However without leaders who themselves are willing to give back to the organizations and individuals that showed them the way and teaching the current generation to honor the past pioneers, a strong foundation that benefits even more athletes in Canada will never be built.
My blog may not represent every Canadian baller’s journey but my hope is that it will foster a deeper discussion and understanding of the explosion of Canadian basketball allowing more Canadian basketball history to come to light. I also hope that it will give athletes, parents and coaches a more accurate picture of what the commitment has looked like to achieving the dream of playing in the NCAA or being drafted into the NBA.
Many of Canada’s most talented early ballers possessed the talent to compete at the highest levels of NCAA basketball but didn’t get a chance. We can only imagine how many more NBA players Canada would have today if they were raised in the new system created by the old pioneers.
If you would like to join the discussion on this blog story listen to our upcoming podcast on the “Implosion Before the Explosion of Canadian Basketball” listen to our podcast “Journey of An Elite 1” or email me to be a guest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also join us August 11 at the P.H.A.S.E. 1 Journey Awards Gala as we gather to celebrate Canadian Basketball History.