Special feature written by Ronny Muskitele of Skyline Sports Global
Oshawa, ON – The inaugural Pro Canadian Invitational took place at the Playground Durham on Saturday, April 23, 2022, showcasing the best of Canada’s graduating college and university basketball ballers in one spot.
Founded by Kevin Barnes Director of Business development for the Playground Global. This event quickly became a massive collaboration amongst Canadian basketball stakeholders and included organizations lead by influential figures like Drew Ebanks of On Point Basketball.
Canadian Basketball continues to grow year by year across the country, but the work isn’t only being done by the Toronto Raptors and our Olympians but on every level. From the grassroots level, high school, prep schools, colleges, and universities, everyone seems to play a part in growing the game of basketball in Canada.
It’s not often players from NCAA Division 1, U SPORTS, and CCAA get to compete against each other under the same roof. Thirty-two players suited up on day one and were assigned to specific coaches and separated by positions.
Omar Miles current CCAA national championship head coach with the Humber Hawks, and Bill Crowdis founding partner of Euroball.ca were present. NBA shooting coaches Dave Love and Nathan Slegers were testing their new shot track data system with the Pro Can athletes, just to name a few.
Team White (Coaches Chris Rao & Danielle Boiago)
The organizing committee identified and invited coaches and players from all over North America to form a memorable experience. Prominent brands like Gatorade, The Closet Inc and Xeist came on board and added fuel to an already strong foundation.
The Pro Canadian Invitational at its core value was introduced to increase participation, create jobs, and provide a platform for collaboration within the Canadian basketball landscape.
Coaches from across the country came together to form a memorable experience for the top Canadian players. Coach Jeremy Kayeye of Ryerson University, Coach Mike De Giorgio of Royal Crown Academy (formerly of the University of Toronto), Coach Christopher Rao of Niagara college, and Danielle Boiago of McMaster University each had a team of eight players that were set to compete against one another.
With each player looking to make the best impression on the coaches, scouts, and agents in attendance, the level of intensity was terrific from the start. From 20-point blowouts to buzzer-beaters to force overtime, the games were must-see. With all the talent level, it wasn’t easy for coaches and scouts to pick the top players that would compete against one another in the Canadian Pro Prospects Game at Durham College the following day.
The camaraderie among basketball professionals in Canada is what helps the game flourish and grow rapidly. The various media present all had the chance to cover players, conduct interviews, and share memorable moments with one another. When it was all said and done, every player, coach, media member, scout, and agent seemed to have left with a smile, as day one couldn’t have gone any better.
Team Black (Coaches Mike De Giorgio & Jeremie Kayeye)
On Sunday, the top players selected took the court for the Canadian Pro Prospects Game, and the four coaches were separated into two coaching staffs. Team White was coached by coach Rao, and Boiago and Team Black were coached by Coach Kayeye and De Giorgio. Ottawa Gee-Gees forward -Maxime Boursiquot started the game on fire for Team Black scoring six of the first nine points. The high flyer from Simon Fraser University – Jordan Lyons, got the crowd going early on with two big dunks for Team White. Despite the early effort from Lyons and Malcolm Glanville, Team Black was too much to handle offensively shooting 62.5 percent from the field after the first quarter. This helped them take an early 10-point lead. Team Black moved the ball well all game long and never let up. The total team effort helped them take a 20-point lead to end the third period. A late push by Lyons and Glanville, who cut the lead to 13, was not enough. Godwin Boahen closed out the game with a free throw in the Elam Ending finish as Team Black won the first Pro-Can Invitational Canadian Pro Prospects Game, 95-81.
Boursiquot was named the Performer of the Game, finishing with a game-high 17 points (66% FG), six rebounds, and three blocks.
“It was a great experience for guys to get exposure and experience,” said Boursiquot. “I had a fun weekend. I got to compete, got to meet new guys, and play with some old guys. I think overall, it was great!
Overall, this was a memorable event and a stepping stone to the growing opportunities and game of basketball for Canadians. Coach Kevin Barnes, Drew Ebanks and the organizing committee did a phenomenal job planning this event. Everyone benefited, from players to coaches, media members, scouts, and agents. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these bright young stars.
Canadian Pro Prospects Game Top Performer Maxime Boursiquot-Ottawa Gee Gees
Ibrahim Ngom 6’3″ G Bishop’s University
Ibrahim Ngom was chosen by Bloodline Sport Management to participate in the first ever Pro Canadian Invitational combine. The 6’3 guard from Montreal, QC wrapped up his senior year at Bishop University. He led the Bishop Gaiters in scoring and assists this year, averaging 16.2 PPG and 5.2 assists per game. After his brilliant season, Ngom was selected for the RSEQ First Team All-Star. He capped off his final U SPORTS game recording 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Ibrahim is the only RSEQ player, male or female, to record a triple double this season. His journey to becoming an RSEQ First Team All-Star was far from easy. Growing up alongside his twin brother Djibril in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Montreal, Parc-Ex was a challenge in itself. Park Ex is known to have the highest concentration of immigrants (61%) and visible minority groups (63%), among Montreal’s various neighborhoods. After being labeled a “Troublemaker” during his youth, he and his twin brother were sent back to Senegal, Africa to “straighten up.” The transition opened the Ngom brothers to an entire new reality and culture shock.. Although Park Ex is considered one of the poorest neighborhoods in Montreal, it didn’t come close to the struggle Ibrahim saw people in Senegal endure. He and his twin Djibril made a vow then and there that they would no longer take their opportunities in Canada for granted. As he returned to Montreal in grade 9 after spending two years in Africa he understood the power of opportunities, education and sports. He went on to become one of a few in his neighborhood to not only graduate high school, but also enroll in college and become a student-athlete from Vanier College, followed by Brock University where he obtained his Bachelors of Sport Management degree and later transferred to Bishops University to finish his University career. “If I can teach anything to the younger generation I’d say stay the course, keep the right people around you and although there’s ups and downs keep going through it. Everything will be fine. The longer you’re persistent and consistent you’re going to get the results you want.” Ibrahim’s story is one of persistence, staying the course and hard work. He hopes to use this opportunity given by the Pro Canadian Invitational combine to further his chances of playing professional basketball.
Jason Scully 6’4″ F University of Victoria
“The perfect opportunity” as Jason Scully summarized Day 1 of the Pro Can Invitational combine. The 6’4 forward from Vancoucer, BC was in shock after receiving a message from Coach Kevin Barnes who organized the Pro Can Invitational combine to attend the inaugural event at the Playground Durham location. The Vancouver native, recently concluded his senior year at The University of Victoria. Unfortunately, Jason sat out his last two seasons. One being canceled by the Covid-19 global pandemic and this past season he was unable to suit up due to injury. The Pro Can Invitational combine was the first time Scully played competitive 5 on 5 basketball in nearly two years. “You need to find the lessons that injuries are teaching you.” says Jason. “Everything happens for a reason even if it’s hard to see it at the moment. I’m trying to embrace it and embrace that it’s making me a better person in basketball and in life in general.” His passion for the game kept his drive going despite all the adversities he dealt with. Scully has been open to sharing the struggles he has been dealing with the past few years as he was forced to sit down. He believes it made him a stronger person and was proud to be able to showcase his 3 and D game in front of important basketball decision makers.
“I’d like people to see if tough things are happening, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a lot of darkness for 6 months not really knowing when good things were going to start happening. But I think this was the first step of a good break for me. Hopefully this is the start of good things happening for me.” The first of its kind event has already been a life-changing opportunity for players like Jason Scully. It’ll be exciting to see where this opportunity lands him. Besides wanting to become a professional basketball player, Jason is also taking his Masters of Arts in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria. He hopes to continue helping the world in any way he can and being a good person by playing his part in helping society flourish.
Malik Irwin 6’5″ F University of Manitoba (FREE AGENT)
“Never Give Up.” is the message that Malik Irwin spreads to all those around him. He is the definition of More Than An Athlete. After taking a year off playing professional basketball for the KB Trepca of the Kosovo Superleague he reached out to Coach Kevin Barnes who organized the Pro Can Invitational to inquire about an opportunity to showcase his skills in front of decision makers.
Spending one year playing professionally in Eastern Europe, he understood the importance of being decisive to be a successful basketball player. This experience helped him during the combine to play at his pace and be efficient. Alongside being a basketball player, Irwin is a full-time entrepreneur owning his own winery called Maya-Jo named after his little sister who he credits as one of his biggest inspirations. He also opened his own beauty store in Winnipeg, Manitoba named Ninety Five Beauty. It’s a spot for not only men to get their hair done, but women to get their nails and hair done as well, while enjoying a great atmosphere and wine.
“Find your passion and lean into it. It’s not easy, but if you’re having fun and you’re passionate about it, you’re going to show up everyday. Same thing with basketball, you’re going to miss shots but you’ll show up everyday because you’re passionate about it.” Says Irwin.
After experiencing his second Torn ACL while playing in his Final season at the University of Manitoba. Irwin credits that injury for being the reason he was capable of setting Big goals and achieving them. He promised himself that he would become a professional basketball player after tearing his ACL and achieved it the very next year. From that point on, he knew he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. He uses the lessons he’s learned as an athlete to help him be a successful entrepreneur. He hopes to build his wine to become world-known and be known as the pop-culture of wine. Rather be on the basketball court or the business field, Irwin has put himself in a position to succeed in both and we look forward to watching his growth and success on and off the court
Prince Oduro 6’8″ F University of Detroit Mercy
Prince Oduro’s presence was hard to miss at the inaugural Pro Canadian Invitational combine. The 6’8 big man concluded his Senior year for Division 1’s Detroit Mercy Titans basketball program. Oduro is the perfect example of what we see isn’t always the reality of things. Although Prince’s entire community and city was proud of him making it into a Division 1 school, it was a bittersweet feeling for him. He wasn’t comfortable leaving his family behind during those times, but understood that he was leaving for a bigger purpose and to make something out of his life. Oduro has often been misunderstood but always remained true to himself and understood that his circumstances weren’t the same as the norm.
The Pro Canadian Invitational was a great opportunity for Prince to change any misunderstanding that has been associated with him. He viewed the opportunity as another chance to prove that he’s not only a talent to be recognized but someone of high character. Growing up in Jane and Wilson neighborhood in Toronto, Ontario it was not easy to beat the odds. He’s one of few from his neighborhood to pursue an education after High School and make it into a Division 1 school. He understands the weight and pressure that was put on him and embraces it. He along his friends founded a clothing brand called “Havoc City.” It sheds light on the fast paced life of Toronto and opportunities that lie in the city. The brand has grown to be something that his entire community embraced and followed.
Oduro hopes to play professionally one day and viewed this opportunity as the perfect first step. He understands how fortunate he’s been during his basketball career and embraces each new chapter. Oduro was a part of the 2017 U19 Canadian Team who won the first FIBA gold medal in an international competition, ever. “I just want to inspire people from my community and embrace my leadership role to inspire others that anything is possible.”
We look forward to seeing Prince Oduro’s continue to strive on the court and off the court with his “Havoc City” brand and all his other ventures.
Photos Courtesy Faz Visions