No Thon Maker, No Justin Jackson, No Problem. Despite the main attraction, Thon Maker, being unable to play, the Biosteel All Canadian Game went off without a hitch and the coordinators knew it all along.
When asked who should impress during the All Canadian Game; executive director of the Biosteel All Canadian Game, Jesse Tipping, said “I think you can just spin a wheel and just point your finger to one of the 24 kids, they’re all super talented.” That honestly was not lip service or PR as the game was a wild one. It was everything a ticket holder could ask for. There was a great display of intensity, highlights, talent, and a comeback.
Even though the game meant nothing, the kids played extremely hard. Team White and Team Red went all out, giving the sold out crowd at UofT’s Goldring Centre everything they got. In the end the game came down to free throws for team red, and they could not capitalize; Team White won 120-118.
Both of Team Red’s standouts, Kalif Young and O’Shae Brissett missed crucial free throws. Team white was down 12 points with 6:07 left on the clock and found a way to turn the tables on Team Red.
When asked if he wanted to pull his hair out during the last 10 seconds, Team Red’s coach James Derouin said
“Yeah. To be honest with you the last minute, I think we were up 10 or 8 with I think a minute to go and you know some free throws, some calls against us on the other end and obviously the missed free throws down the stretch… it’s ironic it comes down to small things like that but that’s the game and that’s the way it worked out.”
This is the first all-star game I have watched where it came down to free throws and that was a prevalent storyline in the game. Team Red was abysmal from the free throw line, shooting 18-37 (48.6) from the charity stripe. Coach Derouin touched on that as well.
“You don’t expect an All-Star game to come down to missed free throws but we lose by 2 and we missed 19 free throws, that’s tough to swallow obviously. When we get back to the locker room I’ll talk to the kids about ‘hey the dunks are great, the threes are great but it’s the little things that win and lose basketball games’ ”
In terms of scouting for the new Canadian talent, the young athlete that the wheel stopped on for this edition of the All Canadian Game was Brampton, Ontario native, Jahvon Blair. Blair led the comeback in the final minutes of the game and he finished with 31 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists to take home team white MVP. In the beginning it looked like Isiaha Mike was going to take home the MVP, however, in the second half, Jahvon Blair found a second gear in his game. 24 of his 31 points came in the second half and 18 of those points were in the fourth quarter. When asked what clicked in his mind to change from facilitator to scorer, Blair responded
“It was honestly at halftime. My coach was talking to me, Coach Dave (Dave DeAveiro), and he told me ‘to just go and play my own game. Just keep on scoring, we need you.’ so I thought that I could put the team on my back”
Blair also touched on the talent on team white and how the comeback was a team effort
“It wasn’t only me, Isiaha Mike had a double-double (18 points and 12 rebounds). Everyone had bits and parts so I’m just happy to be on that team”
This is a theme that was definitely entrenched into the game. For the most part, all of the young athletes stood out and had their moments. In fact Coach Derouin, who coaches the Ottawa Gee-Gees program, mentioned O’Shae Brissett and Kalif Young by name to give them praise on their performances.
The 6’9 power forward, Kalif Young was a monster on both ends of the floor. The Vaughan, Ontario native finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds as well as showing the ability to defend the pick and roll to perfection.
Mississauga, Ontario native, O’ Shae Brissett showed the ability to shoot from deep and get to the rim. He had 24 points on an efficient 7-9 shooting and 4-6 from three. For team White’s Isiaha Mike was also impressive as he had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Team White’s win.
The thing that was surprising was these kids played hard in a game that meant nothing. That intensity has been something that critics of Canadian players have said the kids lacked, most notably Jason Whitlock.
With this game, the Canadian talent are starting to shut the critics up and hopefully these kinds of showings in these games will continue.