Future of Canadian basketball looks bright says NBA Canada

NBABIGTourThe NBA kicked off its NBA BIG Tour in Canada this month, stopping at Calgary’s Southcentre Mall this weekend.

Special guest Brandon Knight of the Milwaukee Bucks, who was the number eight pick of the 2011 NBA draft, spent the afternoon chatting with fans and signing autographs.

“I like the city,” said Knight, who last year did an NBA promotions tour in Winnipeg and Edmonton. “It’s something different from the States but I enjoy coming to Canada.”

It is hard to imagine any professional sport will ever trump hockey in this country, but the NBA appears to be trying to find its place. 

This past 2013 NBA draft featured the first Canadian ever to be selected number one overall in Anthony Bennett and with the rise of prospect Andrew Wiggins, who is expected to go first in next year’s draft.

The Canadian basketball landscape has never experienced such a wealth of talent in the country said Jeff Bailey of Basketball Alberta.

“Right now basketball is at the forefront,” said Bailey, who helped organize the NBA BIG Tour for the province. “It’s growing every year but it doesn’t get a lot of attention, then a couple of years ago we had Tristan Thompson get drafted fourth. Then this year we had Anthony Bennett go first and it’s anticipated that Andrew Wiggins will be also next year.

“So with back-to-back number ones coming from Canada, it’s a huge time for basketball here.”

And the supporters of NBA Canada insist there isn’t a better time to increase the promoting efforts for the country.

“The time is definitely now,” said Sam Morsy of NBA Canada. “This is often referred to as the golden era by Steve Nash, Jay Triano and others in the basketball community.

“Basketball is only going to continue to grow.”

The NBA BIG Tour was a chance for the league to connect with fans who don’t get year-round access to the NBA. The tour had a three-point shooting contest, a presentation of the Larry O’Brien trophy, photo session with San Antonio Spurs mascot, Harlem Globe Trotter, Wun Versher, and Milwaukee Bucks point guard, Brandon Knight.NBABigTour-10-of-58: Brandon Knight of the Milwaukee Bucks surprised fans at the NBA BIG Tour, telling them the fastest player he had to guard was Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Photo by Michael Chan

“It was fun when I came last year (to Canada),” Knight said. “The fans were really excited because there isn’t really any NBA basketball except in Toronto.

“So it’s important to spend time with the fans in Calgary.”

Knight was part of the draft class where he played with some of Canada’s new talent, like Tristan Thompson, who was drafted fourth in 2011 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Knight has seen the surge in Canada’s basketball talent first hand.

“It’s growing,” Knight said. “Steve Nash kind of started the wave and then there are guys who are my age like Corey Joseph and Tristan Thompson that are pretty good.

“Just because of those guys, the NBA is going to start looking here more for talent.”

Although it will still be a ways to go, in the past few years the development in Canada and Calgary have been making major strides.

“Basketball in Canada is really good,” Josh Turner said, a freshmen guard of the U of C Dinos, who was invited to participate in the NBA BIG Tour slam dunk contest.

“It’s mainly a size difference we have, the guys in the NCAA are bigger and stronger.

“Down here though, it’s more technical and more fundamental and that’s an important part of the game. I think a lot of the Canadian schools can play with division-one mid-major NCAA schools in the States.”


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