During the all Canadian game, I had the privilege of asking Jamal Murray questions in a media scrum. If you do not know Jamal Murray, then how are you reading this article but you are welcome to stay. The Canadian born in Kitchener, Ontario, had a great year in Kentucky under John Calipari. Murray, at Kentucky, averaged 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists as a freshman. As a result he declared for the draft and is projected 6th in the 2016 NBA draft by draft express.
This is a great accomplishment because if he is drafted within the top 10, it would mean that 3 of the last 4 years would have players of Canadian nationality selected as a top 10 pick. This is something that was never in doubt for Murray
“it’s been my dream (to play in the NBA) for all my life… when I was coming up, I used to have dreams about it” said Murray.
However, it is an even greater accomplishment when you consider the path Murray took. Jamal Murray’s path is much more different than the path Andrew Wiggins took. Wiggins will be considered a pioneer for Canadian Basketball, however, in reality Wiggins echoed the path a lot of Canadians take in pursuit of reaching the NBA.
Wiggins was a Phenom at Vaughan Secondary and almost every american scout was aware of his talent even when he led Vaughan Secondary to the Ontario Provincial Championship (OFSAA for the uninitiated). Even when Wiggins was 12, people were noticing what he can do. Wiggins eventually opted to leave for Huntington Prep School in West Virginia before heading to college at the University of Kansas and the rest is history. Murray on the other hand decided to stay in Canada, opting to play for Athlete institute in Mono, Ontario after playing at Grand River Collegiate institute in Kitchener, Ontario.
Side note: Anthony Bennett also opted to play in America with Mountain State Academy and later Findlay prep.
This is not a knock on Andrew Wiggins or Anthony Bennett as both were just echoing a path that student-athletes were mandatorily taking if they want to play ball in the NBA. This is something that many Canadian children were doing. Speaking from personal experience, I was involved in many of my brother’s football conversations as part of his inner circle. He was told repeatedly by coaches and myself that he needs to go to an American high school in order to get exposure. Eventually he did and played football for Montverde Academy. However, I always thought that there were many children who played football and basketball that could compete with the American children.
I thought this especially in the realm of basketball, as I witnessed AAU teams come to Canada and get a beat down by Canadian teams. Even when Canadian teams would play AAU teams in America, Canadian teams would pull out a surprise win. Now obviously there is more talent regarding basketball in the USA than in Canada, there is no denying that but the cream of the crop in Canada can compete. Unfortunately there is more cream in America than in Canada because the fields are larger in America. Before I get too metaphoric, what is being said is that there is a reason why there is more talent in the U.S.A is because Canadian kids are being forced to leave Canada to make a name for themselves.
This is a decision that is a massive gamble and the majority of Canadian athletes cannot take this gamble for many reasons. The biggest reason to me is that American schools, both at the high school and colligate level, can only take so many Canadian prospects and so some are lost in the shuffle. Due to the resources to develop an athlete in the years 18-24 are much better in America than in Canada, the Canadian athletes who decide to stay in Canada suffer.
When Murray opted to go to Athlete Institute instead of a prep school down south, he represented the progress of a vision. The vision where young Canadian athletes stay in Canada. This is a vision which will strive to make sure the fields of Canadian talent just as large as the fields of American talent so that the cream of the crop is just as much in Canada as it is in America. The Biosteel All-Canadian Game is the journey to have that vision turn into a reality. This is exemplified in the selection process; where 18 of the 24 children selected are from Canadian schools. Now, more than ever we see Canadian student athletes stay in prep school in Canada rather than go down to the USA for high school.
That is not where the vision is realized.
For me, the vision is realized when the student-athlete, who can play either NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) or CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) ball, opts to play CIS and gets drafted by an NBA squad. I asked Ottawa Gee-Gees basketball program’s head coach, James Derouin about this.
The vision right now is still just a vision and there is still a long way to go. In my opinion, the CIS do not help themselves out with the limitations they put on scholarships. To me, those rules were created eons ago in order to avoid corruption. While it has done that, it has severely limited the heights student-athletes can reach if one decides to stay in the True North. The Athlete institute and the Biosteel All Canadian game are one of many examples that Canadians can point to; which outline that the Vision can become a reality.