Canadian basketball is on the rise, face the world in Paris

Apr 25, 2024 | Sports

Historically, Canada has never been a powerful basketball nation. The Americans and Europeans have been running the show.

But in the last decade or so, that changed and many more young Canadian basketball players are starting to pop up in the NCAA and even in the NBA.

One big name is Toronto native Zach Edey, who led Purdue University to its first Final Four appearance in 44 years. He’s now declared for the NBA draft.

Since joining the Boilermakers, the 7-foot-4 centre has been making a name for himself and is now being projected for the first round of the upcoming NBA draft. The Perdue stats page says Edey averaged 25.2 points and 12.2 rebounds this season, with 2.2 blocks and two assists. He shot 62.3 per cent from the field and 71.1 per cent from the free-throw line.

According to the Perdue stats page, Edey is the only NCAA player who averaged at least 25 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists a game.

Many kids in Toronto are inspired to follow in his footsteps and do things they could’ve never imagined.

“Seeing a Canadian like Zach Edey having success at such high levels of basketball is very inspiring and something that I never thought I would see,” Humber Hawks basketball player Brett Pearce said.

The NCAA has a reputation for being the best league for any young player to develop their game and eventually make it to the NBA one day.

“Any player dreams of playing in the NCAA, it’s where everyone wants to be before making it to the big leagues. I really hope that the OCAA can one day have the same reputation,” Pearce said.

March Madness, is an NCAA tournament played in the United States to determine the men’s college basketball national champion of the Division I level.

Many of the teams that take part in this tournament are known for producing some of the best players the NBA has ever had. Nonetheless, the Humber Hawks basketball assistant coach, Mark Zaragoza backs his team against NCAA sides.

He’s “100 per cent” confident the Humber Hawks men’s basketball team could compete with NCAA teams.

“We have talented players, great coaches, and a great support system from the Athletics Department,” Zaragoza said. “We regularly scrimmage with NCAA schools during our preseason and the games are always good.”

Canadians have faced struggles, including less exposure, less competition, fewer resources and infrastructure, and fewer high-performance opportunities.

The Canadian basketball system has improved in these regards greatly in recent years, especially with the introduction of the 10-team Canadian Elite Basketball League. The CEBL is a great opportunity for homegrown talent to play pro at home.

“Now that the league has introduced CCAA eligibility for their draft, there is a clear pathway to play pro for young Canadian players,” Zaragoza said.

Canada beat the U.S. to win the 2023 FIBA World Cup bronze medal. This win proved to many Canadians they belonged on the same stage as their southern neighbours.

“Seeing these results from our boys is exactly what keeps me playing even when I feel like I’ll never be able to reach a high level,” Brodie League basketball player, Jacob Fikre said.

The Brodie League is North America’s largest recreational men’s league and continues to inspire Canadians of all ages to keep playing the sport that they love, no matter the circumstances.

“Brodie League has helped grow the sport in many different ways. It’s an affordable option and it gives people a platform where they can show off their skills,” Fikre said.

The 2024 Paris Olympics will be the first real shot the Canadian basketball team has had in more than 20 years to medal. The 2000 Sydney Olympics was the team’s last appearance in the tournament.

“Basketball in Canada has soared in recent years and is continuing to grow. The goal for Paris this summer is a podium finish. This will be another step in Canada’s quest for dominance in the world of basketball,” Pearce said.