The Canadian basketball scene will have a new look for 2021. Over the last 10 years, Prep basketball has evolved and changed the landscape, playing an integral role in the overall growth of high school basketball. Both the National Junior Circuit (NJC) and National Senior Circuit (NSC) have successfully brought the country together using their successful circuit model and attracting 60+ teams from across the country.
In response to the increasing demand and appetite for elite-level competition and the desire to develop our talent in Canada, the NATIONAL SENIOR CIRCUIT PLATINUM (NSC Platinum) circuit will build on this success of their affiliated circuits and seek to include all the top Prep programs in Canada. The NSC PLATINUM has lofty ambitions and will be looking to include Prep programs from the U.S.A. as well.
2021 NSC PLATINUM Session dates:
January 8-10 – Ridley College (St. Catharine’s, ON)
February 19-21 – CTA (Ottawa, ON)
March 12-14 – TRC (Brantford, ON)
April 9-11 – TBD (GTA)
The NSC PLATINUM will be the premium circuit to showcase top Prep programs from across Canada and the U.S. It will be a platform where the best players can compete against their peers at an exceedingly high level. The games will be streamed with commentary and high-quality scouting and evaluation. It will host (3) preliminary weekends starting in January 2021 and will culminate with the NSC PLATINUM National Championship tournament in April 2021.
The NSC PLATINUM will be announcing programs over the coming weeks.
NSC PLATINUM Board of Directors include:
Tony House: NSC PLATINUM Founder – Canada Topflight Academy
Drew Ebanks: NSC PLATINUM Commissioner – On Point Basketball
Leo Rautins: Former NBA 1st round draft pick, NBA Analyst
Curt McLean: CM Sports Tours
Ro Russell: Director of Basketball – Crestwood Preparatory
Daron Leonard: Founder – Northstar Preparatory
The NSC PLATINUM weekend events will become a staple and standard so that student-athletes can compete against elite competition and amass the exposure necessary to attract attention from top NCAA, U-Sports and CCAA programs.
“Drew and I are excited to champion the NSC PLATINUM circuit. Over the last couple of years we collaborated to launch the NJC and NSC and have successfully established them as the top Junior and Senior High School circuits in the country. The growth of basketball in Canada has been phenomenal and we are confident that the NSC PLATINUM will attract and showcase some of the best basketball talent in North America.”
House, NJC/NSC/NSC PLATINUM Founder
“I’m thrilled to play a major role in the NSC PLATINUM and also collaborating with so many influential basketball people in our community. We have some major plans to grow this platform into something very special. I’m looking forward, along with our NSC PLATINUM leadership team, to bringing this exciting opportunity to student-athletes and the masses”
As the calendar turns to March, the NCAA basketball regular season is reaching its final stages. In just a few short weeks the entire sporting world will turn its attention to the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments, which will surely be filled with all of the drama that was terribly missed in 2020. Before we can look forward though, we should look back at the regular season that was, which featured a record number of Canadian men and women having career seasons. In this article, we will highlight some of the standout Canadian performers from this year’s college basketball campaign.
Marcus Carr – Minnesota
Coming into the 2020-2021 season, junior Marcus Carr was one of the highest touted Canadians in college basketball, and he has continued to live up to the hype. Carr’s numbers have improved every season, and this year the guard is averaging 20 points and 5 assists a game on 41% shooting.
The Toronto native has the ability to take over a game at any moment, and has had several incredible solo performances this season, including a 41-point showing against Nebraska on Feb 27th. Carr’s Golden Gophers have struggled as of late, but through the Canadian’s leadership and offensive firepower Minnesota is always dangerous, and they have given themselves a chance to make March Madness if they can impress in the Big 10 Conference Tournament.
AJ Lawson – South Carolina
The South Carolina Gamecocks have struggled this season in a competitive SEC, but Canadian junior AJ Lawson has been a bright spot. The guard has been a consistent offensive threat for South Carolina in his collegiate career, and has taken the next step to be a leader on this basketball team.
Lawson averages 17.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 1.6 SPG on an efficient 41% shooting. He has improved as a free throw shooter, and has an explosive first step that makes him a constant threat to defenders. On the defensive side of the ball, Lawson is a great team defender that can organize his teammates and take control. Lawson seems to be consistently improving, and has been a pleasure to watch this season despite South Carolina’s rough campaign.
Aaliyah Edwards – UConn
When it comes to women’s college basketball, UConn is always at the top of everyone’s must-watch list, and Kington native Aaliyah Edwards has added to the spectacle. On a stacked team that includes Paige Bueckers and more, Edwards is fourth on the team in PPG with 10.4, to go along with 5.3 rebounds per contest as well.
Although only in her freshman season, Edwards has started twice, and had a 16-point 11-rebound double-double against Xavier in mid-February. The first-year is physical on the glass, is effective in traffic and is able to get her own shot. She is already playing at an incredibly high level despite her age, and so the sky truly is the limit for Edwards moving forward.
Jahvon Blair – Georgetown
Canadian guard Jahvon Blair has continuously improved in every season he’s played at Georgetown, and now in his senior year, he has taken a real step to be a leader both on and off of the court. Blair is averaging an incredible 37 MPG, which goes to show just how much his team relies on him. He’s averaging almost 16 PPG, to go along with 4 APG and 4 RPG.
Coming into college, Blair was only listed as a three-star recruit, and so the fact that he has been able to take his game to this level is a testament to his incredible work ethic. Despite Georgetown’s up-and-down season, Blair has the potential to win the Most Improved Player in the conference award, and has led the team to a few signature wins this season including an upset win over the Creighton Blue Jays.
Laeticia Amihere – South Carolina
The South Carolina Gamecocks have posted an incredible 14-2 record this season, and Laeticia Amihere has been one of their most reliable players off of the bench. Averaging 6.5 PPG and 5.2 RPG, Amihere is a physical forward that likes to dominate on the glass. Despite only getting one start this season, Laeticia averages over 18 minutes per game, and is a big part of the rotation for the SEC juggernaut.
The sophomore has made noticeable improvements across the board since her freshman year, and is in the perfect situation to continue to improve with the Gamecocks. Even though she suffered an ACL injury in 2017, Amihere has managed to stay healthy this season, and will be a big piece for South Carolina as they look to win the SEC conference title and more importantly, the NCAA Tournament.
Fardaws Aimaq – Utah Valley
Although he hasn’t received as much hype as the previous entries on the list, Vancouver’s Fardaws Aimaq has put on an absolute show for the Utah Valley Wolverines this season. Due to the fact that Aimaq plays in the WAC, his game is easy to overlook, but the center’s stat lines jump off of the page. Albeit in a COVID-compromised schedule, Aimaq is averaging 14.8 PPG and an incredible 15.4 RPG, to go along with almost 2 blocks a game as well.
After playing his freshman season for Mercer and missing his sophomore year completely, the 2020-2021 season has been the first chance for Aimaq to get consistent starting minutes, and he has made the absolute most of it. Aimaq has helped lead the Wolverines to second in the conference, and will have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the WAC conference title.
The late game heroics of Henry Ellenson and Matt Morgan pushed the Raptors 905 to a gutsy 125-124 overtime win against the Canton Charge Monday.
The Raptors trailed by 10 points after three quarters and came back in the fourth for the second game in a row.
Ellenson scored 31 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter and Morgan added two clutch threes late to give the Raptors their fifth straight win.
The 905 came out flying in the fourth quarter thanks to the play of veterans Ellenson and Nik Stauskas. Trailing by seven, Ellenson scored five points in a row to pull within two. After a nice tip shot by Canton’s Marques Bolden, the Raptors were down 112-108 with under two minutes to play.
Coming out of a timeout, Stauskas nailed a three to cut the Charge lead to one and then Ellenson made one of his eight threes in the game to take a 114-112 lead.
The Charge fought back to grab a two point lead with eight seconds left which set the stage for the Raptors’ Morgan. Some great ball movement allowed Donta Hall to find a wide open Morgan at the top of the arc and he made no mistake to once again give the 905 a two point lead.
The Charge then marched back down the court and Borden dunked the ball with two seconds left to send the game to overtime tied at 117.
Early in overtime, Morgan took a pass from Stauskas for another big three and put the 905 back up by two. After a nice stop on defence, the Raptors found Ellenson again from beyond the arc and increased their lead to five. Stauskas added a couple free throws late for two of his 22 points in the game and the 905 hung on for the one point win.
“Our guys’ will to win is so big,” said 905 head coach Patrick Mutumbo. “We were down by as much as 20 and they refused to give in and refused to lay down. I think that’s just attributed to the type of people and the type of competitors we have on this team.”
Ellenson echoed the positive words of his head coach post game saying, “we’ve been unselfish and that’s equalled wins for us. We have a lot of faith in each other, we know everyone’s going to step up and make shots and big defensive plays.”
Matt Mooney also gave the 905 some great minutes and totalled 17 points and 13 assists in the win. He had a couple great assists to Ellenson and Stauskas late in the game that led to big buckets.
“Assists are all about who you’re playing with and I’m playing with guys that can shoot the leather off the ball and make me look good,” said Mooney who has seen his assists per game increase this season. “I’m playing with a lot of great players and that’s why the assists are coming.”
The Raptors’ newest addition, Jarron Cumberland, acquired in a trade for Dewan Hernandez, saw his first minutes with the 905 Monday. His play included a nice three late in the fourth to finish with 5 points in 17 minutes.
The Charge featured a familiar face in Malachi Richardson who spent time with the 905 and Raptors in 2019. Richardson was crucial in his team’s first half success and scored 19 points in the game.
Gary Payton II and Jalen Harris both sat out Monday’s game with injuries.
The Raptors are on fire and sit second in the standings with a 9-3 record. They take on the Oklahoma City Blue Wednesday.
What feels like the inevitable has happened to the Toronto Raptors. Their Sunday evening matchup against first-time All-Star Zach Lavine’s Chicago Bulls has been postponed due to the NBA’s “Health and Safety Protocol”.
As per usual, the league has not disclosed exactly what has happened or which players or members of staff were at the origin of the game being rescheduled. This did in fact have somewhat of a ticking time bomb sensation to it after Toronto had already announced that Pascal Siakam missed his team’s win over the Houston Rockets on Friday due to what the Association has been referring to as “contact tracing”.
This is nothing new for NBA fans this season as several oppositions each week have had to go through the same process, some of them still having to be played.
No new date has been provided yet for when the Raptors will be able to compete against the Bulls next. However, with the All-Star break around the corner, it seems unlikely we will see Toronto in action until all the players come back from Atlanta or wherever they are spending their short hiatus.
Around the Association: Canada edition (Feb 22nd-27th)
Canadian representation in the National Basketball Association has never been in better hands than it is today. As most basketball aficionados will know, more non-American players come from the True North than any other nation in the world.
It was only a matter of time before an increasing number of Canadian players were going to put the entire league on notice. This is why we have decided to start a new rubric here at On Point. A weekly recap if you will, outlining the latest performances from our country’s top prospects at the highest level.
Let’s start things off with an interesting matchup on Monday as Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, alongside Luguentz Dort from Montreal and their Oklahoma City Thunder battled it out against Kelly Olynyk’s Miami Heat. Shai and “Lu” Dort, as they are often referred to in order to make our lives a little easier, went for 27 and 11 points respectively. Their performance was not enough however to edge past the resurging 2020 NBA finalists as Olynyk finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds in the win for Miami.
Tuesday was bound to be special. Two of the NBA’s best young players, Vaughan’s Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray out of Kitchener, Ontario shared a birthday on February 23rd, turning 26 and 25 respectively. The former put in a great shift in a win against RJ Barrett’s New York Knicks, 114–106. He has morphed into a much-improved defender this season and continues to impress his new teammates by putting up consistent numbers on the offensive end. The latter, in what has become a must-see TV rivalry over the last couple of seasons between his Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers, finished with 24 points and a team-high 8 assists in a win. Last but certainly not least, Chris Boucher helped the Raptors see off the East-leading 76ers with 10 points including two 3 pointers. The Montreal man has vastly improved his shooting this campaign and continues to be decisive off the bench for the 2019 champions.
Now, none of us were quite ready for what was going to happen on Wednesday. Let’s start things off with a strong double-double performance by Tristan Thompson, dropping 13 points and 13 rebounds on 50% FG for the Boston Celtics in a loss to Atlanta. The most impressive performances however came along later that evening with Oklahoma City hosting DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with a pharaonic career-high 42-point performance before Lu Dort hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner, after a beautiful feed from Al Horford, to win the game for the Thunder. Those two are creating something special in OKC and the future is looking very bright for a team that has picked up an astounding number of first-round picks over what feels like the next decade, notably through the Paul George trade (in which, as a matter of fact, Shai was involved, coming over from the Clippers.)
Thursday, former #2 draft pick out of Duke, RJ Barrett finished with 12 points on an efficient 62% from the field in a blowout win for what have been a pleasantly surprising New York Knicks against De’Aaron Fox’s Sacramento Kings. Murray was up to his usual antics and dropped a light 34, 6 and 6, an outstanding outing in which Denver nevertheless managed to lose at home to the Wizards.
Chris Boucher started the Raptors’ game on Friday night at “home” in Tampa Bay as Toronto hosted John Wall and the Houston Rockets. He finished with 7 points, 8 rebound and 3 blocks, helping his team win this one 122–111. Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo of Lu Dort and Shai were back at it again as they accumulated their team’s starters’ two best +/-, at 11 and 8 respectively, during a 118–109 loss to the Hawks. Andrew Wiggins showed once again why he belongs in a starting lineup by dropping 17 points in a 130–121 W against Rookie of the Year front runner Lamelo Ball’s Charlotte Hornets.
Barrett collected an impressive 24 points on 47% FG, including four made shots from beyond the arc in a strong win against Indiana on Saturday night. He and first-time All-Star Julius Randle have proved to be the perfect one-two punch New York have been desperately searching for to complement an extremely young roster. Jamal Murray also capped things off in style this week by finishing with 26 points shooting 60% from the field against none other than Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander during a blowout win for Denver 126–96.
The future is bright for Canadian hoops, nothing is more certain. Some of these performances are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways Red and White ball has been making waves across the entire continent. More to come.
(Orlando, FL) The Raptors 905 grinded out a hard fought 127-115 win against the Westchester Knicks Saturday to secure their fourth straight win.
For the second game in a row, Alize Johnson came up big for his team with 36 points and 17 rebounds and was instrumental in the team’s comeback win.
It was a forgettable first half for the 905 who looked tired playing their second game in less than 24 hours. Defensively, the 905 were a step behind which allowed the Knicks to go to work. Westchester shot 12-24 from three in the first half and proved why they are one of the best three point shooting teams in the league. Myles Powell and Jared Harper of the Knicks came ready to play and scored 20 and 25 points each.
The lone bright spot for the 905 in the half was the strong play of Johnson, who continued to make his case for a call up to the Toronto Raptors. Johnson’s 19 first half points helped to compensate for the Raptor’s lack of ball movement and fatigue. The 905 trailed 69-57 going into halftime.
“I started going and my teammates started finding me and I was just pushing it in transition so I got in a little groove there,” said Johnson regarding his strong play despite the team’s slow start.
After a back and forth third quarter, the Raptors found their legs in the fourth and looked like a completely different team. Early in the quarter, the 905 pulled ahead 102-101, their first lead in the game since the score was 11-8.
Henry Ellenson, who came off the bench for the first time this season, woke up in the final quarter and punished the Knicks in the post. He brought the same energy defensively and finished with 20 points.
The steady play of point guard Matt Morgan was also crucial in the win. Morgan stepped up for his team with Malachi Flynn playing with the Toronto Raptors at the moment. Morgan’s 19 points and 10 assists helped to propel the team to victory.
“I think with my shooting ability I am able to create a lot more offence, but it’s just playing with that confidence,” said Morgan post- game. “Being able to showcase that is definitely a step forward but I know there’s another level I can get to personally.”
Despite the great play of Ellenson and Morgan, the game belonged to Johnson. In one particular sequence, he made a tough jumper before getting a steal on the other end and driving back down the court for an open lane dunk. His play helped the Raptors outscore the Knicks by 20 points in the final frame.
“Thank god for Alize,” said 905 head coach Patrick Mutumbo. “I loved his voice in the huddles and his swagger on the court and he was not going to lose this game, he carried us.”
Johnson was not alone in receiving his coach’s praise as Mutumbo was very proud of how his team responded to the adversity. “They just did not want to lose, they went to get that game with everything they had. We had every excuse possible and we didn’t take any.”
With the win, the Raptors continue to play at an elite level and climb to third place with an 8-3 record. With four games left in the season, the Raptors are positioned to qualify for the playoffs with a high seed.
The Westchester starting lineup featured Canadians Ignas Brazdeikis and Simi Shittu. Brazdeikis had a tough game from the field shooting 3-14 with 10 points. Shittu added 8 points in 22 minutes of action.
Gary Payton II left the game with a right calf contusion and will be evaluated over the next few days to see if he is good to go for the Raptors’ next game.
The Raptors will look to continue their strong play Monday against the Canton Charge.
(Orlando,FL) The Raptors 905 defeated the Charlotte Hornets’ affiliate the Greensboro Swarm 126-117 Friday night in the G League bubble for their third straight win.
Alize Johnson had a monster night for the 905 with 25 points and 14 rebounds and Nik Stauskas shot 7-11 from the three point line to finish with 27 points.
Donta Hall, fresh off signing a 10-day contract with the Toronto Raptors, wasted no time in making an immediate impact with his new team. The former G League Ignite player was assigned to the 905 Friday and did not disappoint. His first few possessions included a hard- fought rebound that he kicked out to Stauskas for a three and scored his first points as a Raptor with a huge dunk. Hall finished with 18 points in his debut and the chemistry with his teammates was noticeable.
“He’s new to our program but he understands our principles, setting screens and rolling to the basket and just knowing his role. Not doing too much and just being such a force defensively,” said head coach Patrick Mutombo post-game.
After a sluggish first quarter, the 905 emerged as the better team in the second. Johnson and Hall dominated the Swarm in the paint and neutralized Greenboro’s star 7-foot Center, Nick Richards. They outscored the Swarm 62-32 in the post for the game which compensated for their woeful first half shooting percentage from three. The great energy from Hall and Johnson on both sides of the court gave the 905 the lead going into halftime.
Despite having a 16 point lead at one point in the third quarter, defensive lapses let the Swarm back into the game. Grant Riller and Kobi Simmons were a nuisance for the Raptors to guard all night and finished with 28 and 21 points respectively. However, the 905 found their three point shooting stroke at the end of the third, including a couple big threes from Stauskas. The 905 took a 13 point lead into the fourth quarter.
“I was getting open looks,” commented Stauskas about his strong shooting from beyond the arc. “Anytime I feel myself getting into one of those zones I just try to be more aggressive.”
Stauskas continued to shoot the ball well in the fourth quarter to help the Raptors pull away for good and improve to 6-1 in their last seven games.
Hall was not the only player to make his debut with the 905 Friday night. Jarron Cumberland was acquired from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in exchange for Dewan Hernandez, the 59th overall pick of the Raptors in 2019. Cumberland was the 12th overall pick of the Vipers in the 2021 G League draft and averaged 13.4 points with the Cincinnati Bearcats in College during his four seasons there. Cumberland did not play against Greensboro.
The 905 said goodbye to Hernandez, who averaged 10.7 points with the team and certainly was a player the coaching staff valued. “I think it was just the right thing to do to help him, said coach Mutumbo, “ I wish him luck and I really hope that things work out for him because he’s a good kid, a guy I like a lot.”
The 905 were happy to add Hall and Cumberland to the lineup with multiple players out of the lineup with injuries. Jalen Harries continues to recover from a dislocated finger and Breein Tyree will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The Raptors did welcome Gary Payton II and his elite defence against the Swarm.
It was a crazy day for Mutumbo, who has been caught up in rumours he will be asked to step on to the Toronto Raptors bench. The Toronto Raptors’ head coach, Nick Nurse, was placed on the COVID- 19 Health and Safety protocols along with five other coaches Friday. At this point in time, it is unclear what the Toronto Raptors will do with their open coaching positions or when Nurse and his assistants will return.
Stauskas was not the only Canadian to have a good night as Dartmouth, NS native, Nate Darling, continued his strong play as of late. Darling scored 13 points and went 4-8 from the three point line.
It will be a quick turnaround for the 905 who play their second game of a back-to-back against the Westchester Knicks Saturday afternoon.
– Going far beyond the broadcast, the innovative collaboration will see the launch of new domestic and international basketball events beginning in 2022
– Partnership includes creation of original content to highlight the stories that matter most to Canadian basketball fans –
February 23, 2021 – In a first of its kind partnership, Canada Basketball and Sportsnet are joining forces to grow the game of basketball from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Uniting far beyond the broadcast, Canada’s #1 sports media brand and Canada Basketball have committed to a multi-year innovative and unique partnership that will see the development and launch of several new national and international men’s and women’s basketball events in Canada, beginning in 2022.
Additionally, the collaboration will work to shine the spotlight on Canada’s best and brightest in the basketball landscape with original and creative content development, set to air across Sportsnet platforms.
“Over the past decade, the love and passion for basketball has grown exponentially throughout Canadian communities,” said Bart Yabsley, President, Sportsnet. “In joining this truly unique partnership with Canada Basketball, Sportsnet shares the privilege and responsibility of growing the sport of basketball across the country for years to come. Pairing this partnership with our long-term collaboration with the Toronto Raptors and the NBA, plus our growing connection with the WNBA, Sportsnet is officially the destination for all the content Canada’s basketball fans need.”
“Partnering with Sportsnet is a tremendous opportunity for us at Canada Basketball to bring the stories of our players and teams to a national audience,” said Glen Grunwald, President & CEO, Canada Basketball. “From our Senior Women’s National Team ranked a program-high fourth in the world, to another record setting year with Canadians spread across the NBA, basketball in Canada continues to experience growth at all levels like never before seen in our country. However, we firmly believe that this exciting partnership with Sportsnet will take our beloved game to even greater heights.”
2022 Event Series
Next summer, Canada Basketball and Sportsnet are set to launch a series of men’s and women’s events, including the inaugural U22 international tournaments for both women and men. Welcoming the top national federations in the world to Toronto, the international competition will showcase Canada’s up-and-coming talent in action and set the stage for more competition to come.
As the partnership works towards opening tip-off, Canada Basketball will manage tournament logistics, including event format, team qualification and more. Sportsnet will serve as exclusive broadcaster, delivering full-court coverage across its national channels and streaming services. Further details about the 2022 event series will be announced at a later date.
Sportsnet Original Content
Complementing the collaborative event production, Sportsnet and Canada Basketball are also teaming up to deliver creative and innovative original content featuring the stories, moments and events that both influence and unite the Canadian basketball community. Available across Sportsnet’s platforms, the content offerings will highlight the activities and accomplishments of the country’s most heralded players and coaches, as well as rising stars, while leveraging the live event schedule and news trends.
Telling stories from the grassroots to the professional leagues, Sportsnet’s original content will include:
– Insider access to men’s and women’s national team training and development camps
– Athlete-driven segments, social media takeovers and engaging conversations
– Highlighting the trends, stories and influencers at the intersection of basketball with the Canadian music, art and culture scenes
– Training and education videos featuring Team Canada personnel
– Real-time coverage and behind-the-scenes access to all the biggest moments in Canadian basketball
“On behalf of Canada Basketball and basketball fans across Canada, I’d like to thank Bart and the entire team at Sportsnet for their commitment to helping us grow the game here at home,” said Brian Cooper, Chair, Canada Basketball Board of Directors. “Together, we will work to elevate basketball through engaging and relatable original content that will inspire the next generation of Canadian players, coaches, officials and fans, while also delivering a first-class event experience to a growing fanbase of passionate supporters of our game.”
Toronto NBA & NCAA Agent Teams Up with Young Men Around the World to Make Black History Leading Leaders to Excellence and Raising the Bar for Our Community!
(Toronto, ON) Toronto’s Gary Durrant is leading a global group of young men to success and helping them to become tomorrow’s history makers. Through mentorship he is encouraging strong work ethic, clean living, and a dedication to giving back that is creating change one amazing young man at a time. From a Toronto artist to American NBA players, NBA-G League players, professional athletes overseas, and other young people Durrant is improving lives, and these young men are calling for more leaders like him.
“Gary helps young people be seen in their best light, and to see themselves in their best light. This is important. To improve our community, we must have leaders teaching younger people how to let their gifts shine,” says Mamadi Diakite, forward for NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Using Sports, Arts, & Education as a Tool to Connect Young People to Success
Gary Durrant has a legacy of connecting with young people and inspiring excellence. As a motivational speaker, professional educator, and former owner/director of a basketball camp, Gary understands how to mentor and support young adults, and facilitate opportunities for their success
“I have known Gary since I was little” says Canadian Illustrator Tredel Lambert, aka Tredel the Comic God. “My mom was a single parent, and over the years Gary offered me scholarships to attend his camp” Tredel reflects. “For me, basketball was about having fun and getting to hang out with a really cool guy who wanted the best for me. Gary saw my art skills and was always encouraging. I remember the life-lessons he would teach me. I carried those lessons into my profession and have seen the benefits of his leadership in my life. Now, I am starting to get recognition as an artist, and Gary continues to encourage my success.” Tredel is the creator behind the Durrant, Super Mentor (DSM) illustration, paying tribute to Gary and his legacy of mentoring young Black men globally.
Creating Positive Patterns
“When I learned about the impact Gary has had on Toronto basketball, that he played college ball, played professionally, managed a league, and is an agent; I thought, this is someone who knows the business backwards and forwards. Now, working with him, it is even more clear that Gary understands how to get the best for his clients” says Troy Coupain, who plays professionally in Germany and the EuroCup. “You want to work with someone you can trust. I kept meeting people with similar stories about Gary and his positive impact on their lives. I knew that Gary was the person I wanted in my corner.”
Young Leaders, Big Accomplishments, and Even Bigger Dreams
Wenyen Gabriel, NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans’ Power Forward and UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) Ambassador, genuinely recounts meeting Gary and forming a life-long bond that has helped him grow. “When I met Gary, I was still in high school. We had mutual friends and similar interests. I liked that Gary was originally from Jamaica and immigrated to Canada, because I am originally from South Sudan and immigrated to America. Suddenly, I had a support system that understood my experiences” says Wenyen. “When it came time to choose an agent that was going to have my back, Gary was the obvious choice. He played college ball, he understands the NBA, and he knows the difference between the two. He also was already a consistent mentor and friend. Gary was not an agent when we met, he just cared about me as a person. I really appreciated that.”
In addition to appreciating Gary’s mentorship, Wenyen draws inspiration from his mother who has overcome obstacles to give her children a better life, and from his older brother who finished college and manages the largest winery in New Hampshire.
Wenyen has made it his personal mission to inspire other young people, “I work a lot on my mindset, and that has taken me far. Your mind is powerful. I encourage other young people to be aware of their thoughts and set their intentions. As a child, I knew basketball could get me to college. I never forgot that. I stayed focused. Now, I am focused on becoming even better at what I do. I want a long career with the NBA, and I am only just beginning – that fact excites me” says Wenyen. This young man represents a beautiful balance of investing in oneself today, while leadership planning for the future. “One of my dreams is to start an academy in South Sudan to help other young people. Sometimes the only difference between those who succeed and those who do not is access to opportunities. Gary and I have been able to accomplish a lot together. One of his greatest gifts has been opening doors for young people like me.”
Black Leadership Matters
Javin DeLaurier, of the NBA-G League’s Greensboro Swarm, is proud that his agent is someone who can identify with him professionally and culturally. “I always wondered why there were not more Black agents. I wanted to be represented by someone as knowledgeable and connected as Gary, who could also teach me how to navigate the business world successfully as someone who looks like me. I wanted a representative that has lived my experience.” Javin and his mother are passionate about building up other young Black men. This is another reason Durrant Sports Management was an ideal fit for Javin. “When I met Gary, he spoke about how we could work together to give back to others. That was appealing because I want to leave a legacy” says Javin. Since then, Gary, Javin, and his mother have started planning the launch of a men’s mentorship group in Virginia.
Helping other young men achieve success is something Greensboro Swarm player, Xavier Sneed, is also passionate about. Xavier has been speaking at camps in St. Louis telling young people to keep their head up, stay focused, and they too can achieve their dreams. Xavier studies his own teachings, posting affirmations throughout his home to remind himself that excellence is something you re-commit to every day. “I want to make sure I am part of the solution. I want to help other Black people the way I have seen Gary and his team do” says Xavier. “Working with Gary has been amazing not only for basketball, but also for learning business skills. I watch the type of agent Gary is, I have thought about becoming an agent in the future, and if I do, I know that Gary is the type of agent I would like to be.”
Reflecting on what Black History Month means, Hassani Gravett, who plays professionally in Macedonia, reminds us that we need all our leaders, old and new. “When I was in middle school, I always carried a picture of Martin Luther King on my binder. His call for us to ALL come together in a loving manner really inspired me. This past year, we were reminded again why that message is so important. Gary has been a great leader in my life too, because he is someone who not only opens professional doors for me, but who has really helped me become a better man, mature, and make better decisions.”
If we are to build tomorrow’s strong rich Black history – today, then we need to remember leaders like Martin Luther King. We also need to celebrate our hands-on, caring, committed leaders like Gary Durrant, and the amazing rising stars he works with.
“It all starts with raising your own bar on excellence” says Gary. “My team and I firmly believe that the more leaders we can create in our community, the better. I am very proud of all the young men I am working with, and mentoring. I see them really working hard to improve themselves, to establish their careers, and to give back. This is a living example of each one, teach one; and these young, inspiring men are building a history we can all be proud of.”
I’m going to be totally honest here: I did not expect to watch two amazing Canada Basketball games last week, as they competed in the FIBA 2022 Americup Qualifiers.
Notwithstanding, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of entertainment and competitiveness. Team Canada grinded through both games in order to beat the US Virgin Islands (ISV) twice in a row; a buzzer-beating victory 93-95 last Wednesday before another W 95-90 on Saturday.
Perhaps most interestingly, both matches followed a very similar scenario. In both instances, the red and white pulled ahead early, seemingly having the game firmly in hand, before the ISV team rallied back, just short of getting past their opponents. Both times however, the effort and hustle by the Islanders was impressive, notably through their star man and former Florida Gator under Billy Donovan, Walter Hodge. The lefty point guard averaged 26 points over the course of these qualifiers and was within touching distance of the elusive 50/40/90 mark (he shot 49.5% from the field, 39% from 3-point land and just over 85% from the charity stripe.)
In the first matchup between these two nations, I really thought the game was done and dusted by the end of the third quarter. The Islanders wanted none of that and it all came down to the very last shot. Canada’s point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane brought the rock forward and drove before kicking it back out to Anthony Bennett, however the play was broken up by a deflection. Bennett, who was supposed to have an open three, decides to pass up on it and throw a dart into the paint to Kyle Landry, who banks in a floater, at the horn for the win. Heartbreak for the Islanders who had given everything to get back into this one, jubilation for the Canadians.
Former NBA #1 overall draft pick Bennett averaged 18 points over both contests, shooting over 46% from the field and without missing a single free throw attempt (6/6). I honestly thought he looked very confident on the court, which was extremely reassuring to watch. And, as just mentioned, he had a decisive game-winning assist.
Now, when it comes to the second fixture between these two sides, it was a little less of a nail-biter. Team Canada lead throughout the entirety of the game, boosted by Johnny Berhanemeskel, a member of Nanterre 92 in France’s Pro A league, who had not played a single minute until then before knocking down three 3’s in the second half alone.
On a personal note, as a U Sports enthusiast myself, it was quite exciting to see some Canadian university alumni as future serious prospects. One in particular, a former Ryerson Ram, shined throughout the tournament: Aaron Best. I was incredibly impressed by his level of play, albeit not surprised given I had heard how incredible he was in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) for the Blue and Gold. He played all four games in this tournament for Canada, averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting an outstanding 53.8% FG, 52% from beyond the arc and 87% from the free throw line!
Watching both of these countries go at it on the hardwood was a pleasant surprise when it came to the level of intensity and skill. I cannot wait to watch Team Canada again in the Fall when the AmeriCup truly tips off. As for the US Virgin Islands, my hat tips off to them for their convincing display and I am sure the future is bright for what is still a very young roster.
The season kicked off February 10th in its Disney World bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The schedule features 18 participating teams who will play 15 games in a span of 25 nights before the playoffs.
There is plenty of excitement surrounding the season as the league welcomes its new addition, The G League Ignite, which is a collection of NBA draft eligible players coached by Brian Shaw. Additionally, the sprint to the finish of games will surely test every team’s stamina and mental toughness.
The excitement continues with a wealth of strong Canadian players in the G League this season. The group includes college standouts, former NBA players and promising young talents.
For those of you unfamiliar with The G League, I have gathered a scouting report on eight Canadian players in the Disney bubble. More importantly, the list informs you on who to keep a close eye on this season.
Nik Stauskas AKA Sauce Castillo, Mississauga, ON
You may remember Stauskas as the former lottery draft pick of the Sacramento Kings in 2014. You may also remember him as the man who’s name, for some reason, appeared as “Sauce Castillo” on closed captioning in one NBA broadcast.
Stauskas is back playing in North America after a brief stint in the EuroLeague with the Spanish club Baskonia. Unfortunately for Stauskas, the team did not live up to it’s awesome basketball name, and he starts the season with the Raptors 905.
The former Michigan standout was instrumental in leading his team to the final four of the NCAA March Madness tournament in college and blew scouts away with his sharp shooting abilities. His NBA career saw him bounce around from team to team for a while before playing his last season with Cleveland Cavaliers averaging 6.8 points per game.
It wasn’t long ago that Stauskas scored a personal best 24 points against the Lakers in a game that saw him put up 13 in a row at one point. Stauskas is back in North America and ready to remind teams of his great basketball talent and climb his way back into the NBA.
Oshae Brissett, Toronto, ON
Toronto Raptors fans will be very familiar with this name since he spent some time with the team in the 2019- 2020 season. This man bleeds orange, attending both the Athlete Institute, a developmental basketball high school in Orangeville and competing for the Syracuse Orange in college.
The undrafted Toronto native was recently waived by the Toronto Raptors and will begin the season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The energetic and solid defender has proven he can play with the best at the highest levels. Now, he must prove that he can become a reliable player on a nightly basis.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention another rising Toronto athlete, Oshae’s brother, Dejon Brissett. The second overall pick of the Argonauts of the CFL has helped to solidify the Brissett brothers legacy in the city.
Nate Darling, Halifax, NS
Imagine being the first player from Nova Scotia to play in a regular season NBA game? Delaware product, Nate Darling, is certainly close to achieving that milestone.
The guard has a two- way contract between the Charlotte Hornets and their G League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm. He managed to get some playing time in a couple Hornets exhibition games this season while under the guidance of lead assistant coach Jay Triano.
Darling decided to turn pro after a hugely successful 2019- 2020 season in the NCAA where he averaged 21 points per game. He broke records at Delaware making the most three- pointers in school history in a single season.
There is no doubting Darling’s work ethic and passion for basketball and it’s time Canadians become more familiar with the elite shooter from the east coast.
Karim Mane, Montreal, QC
Mane was the first player to ever go directly from a CEGEP to the NBA after signing a two- way contract with the Orlando Magic. He has already put up some NBA numbers in reduced minutes with the team.
The two- time Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All- Canadian with the Vanier College Cheetahs boasts a strong versatile game. Additionally, when he gets hot, especially from beyond the arc, defenders beware.
Mane grabbed the attention of NBA scouts at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece. Mane head coach at Vanier, Andrew Hertzog, said ,”he [Mane] became probably the most- recruited player in the history of Quebec.”
Don’t be surprised if Mane lights up it up with his time split between the Orlando and Lakeland Magic.
Lindell Wigginton, Dartmouth, NS
Wigginton enters his second season with the Iowa Wolves of the G League after averaging 15.3 points per game last season.
As a player that mostly came off the bench in his first season, you know he’s looking to grab some starting minutes this season. His great defensive energy and ability to shoot from beyond the arc should help him do that.
Wigginton has also spent time playing in the Israeli Premier League last summer and managed to grab an invite into the Minnesota Timberwolves camp before the season.
Justin Jackson, Toronto, ON
This is a redemption year for Justin Jackson who’s upward trending career has been plagued with injuries over the last few seasons. A torn labrum ended his sophomore season with Maryland and an achilles injury kept him out of the lineup for the Lakeland Magic the past two seasons.
The former second round pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2018 was also the first NBA pick to be drafted in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL). Jackson enjoyed some success with the Hamilton Honey Badgers, losing in the championship game in the CEBL’s inaugural season in 2019.
Jackson’s comeback last season was interrupted by the COVID virus shutting down the remainder of the G League season. If he can stay healthy, then the Magic will likely reap the benefits on the court.
Simisola Shittu, Burlington, ON
Shittu enters the Disney bubble in Florida with the Westchester Knicks. The athletic and versatile power forward had a solid college career with Vanderbilt and was a 5 star prospect in the recruiting class of 2018.
He’s had a couple sniffs of NBA action from the Chicago Bulls but was released as recent as December of 2020.
Naz Mitrou- Long, Mississauga, ON
Mitrou- Long spent 5 seasons with the Iowa St. Cyclones before moving on to the NBA. He managed to get some action with both the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers over the last few years and has accumulated over 20 games in the NBA. His 12 points against Brooklyn in 2019 stand as his career high and prove he can score against the world’s elite players.
He joins his teammate Oshae Brissett with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this season.
With the condensed schedule of the G League this season, we will get a steady dose of Canadian content over the next month. Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride.