At every level in and around professional basketball, Canadians are making their presence felt.
In the NBA, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is garnering MVP discussion, Bennedict Mathurin looks like one of the most promising rookies in the league. In men’s college ball there are over 150 Canadians set to play this year in Division I NCAA basketball.
Mathurin and fellow Canadian Shaedon Sharpe were only the second-ever pair of northern players to be selected in the top 10 of the NBA draft after being touted as some of the best prospects in College hoops. So it begs the question, who’s next for Canada basketball?
The NBA has seen more northern talent enter the league in the past five years than in any other five-year stretch, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. With the 2022-23 NCAA season set to tip off on Nov. 7 and the NBA G League season already underway, let’s take a look at the players most likely to keep that trend going.
Elijah Fisher, Oshawa, Ont. – Texas Tech Red Raiders
Enter Elijah Fisher, a 6-foot-6 small forward most known for his high-energy drives and ability to attack the rim. The Crestwood Prep standout was given a four-star rating by 247 Sports and is the fourth ranked international prospect from this year’s recruiting class.
After reclassifying to the class of 2022, the Oshawa native announced that he would take his talents to Lubbock, Texas during a special segment on Sportsnet show Tim and Friends.
“The defence really attracted me, they have great defence. It’s a great discipline for me to understand so I can move on to the next level,” Fisher told Sportsnet in May.
This choice should pay dividends for Fisher in his path to the NBA. The Red Raiders had the best defence in the country according to Kenpom rankings. They’ve also consistently found success in developing raw athletic wings into more switchable high-IQ defensive products such as Jarrett Culver of the Atlanta Hawks.
In his time at Crestwood Prep in North York, he managed to develop a solid shooting form, something that wasn’t part of his game going into high school. His “he can do that?” moment came against New Horizon Academy in early 2022 when he hit a career high eight three-pointers on his way to an Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) record 75 points.
Zach Edey, Toronto – Purdue Boilermakers
Not only is Edey the tallest guy to ever play in the Big Ten at 7-foot-4, he’s also the only in college basketball to have played under Nick Nurse with Canada Basketball. That’s two things going his way already.
Though not a notable recruit out of IMG Academy in Florida, he has used his massive frame and solid paint skills to exceed expectations. Last year he was second on a strong Purdue squad in scoring with 14.4 points-per-game and led the team in rebounding with 7.7 per outing.
Moreover, he might have the most notable resume in college basketball. This summer he made his Senior National Team debut in a win against the Dominican Republic in Hamilton on July 1st, scoring two points and grabbing three rebounds in just over four minutes.
“This is a serious player. We’re trying to figure out how to put him in the right places defensively and offensively and use his god given talent,” said coach Nurse after the game.
“He gives us a unique factor, now we gotta build that up. It was his first time out there… Hopefully he becomes a factor that really helps our team someday down the road.”
It remains to be seen if Edey can carry the load for Purdue with former pick-and-roll partner Jaden Ivey now with the Detroit Pistons. However, in an exhibition game against Truman State, the Goliath led the team with 23 points and seven rebounds in a 102-57 drubbing.
This is essentially Edey’s team now, and if he can prove that he’s more than just a big body, he could see his stock rise come the end of the season.
Leonard Miller, Scarborough, Ont. – G League Ignite
Originally, Leonard Miller declared for the 2022 NBA Draft so that he could test the water and gauge if there was legitimate interest in a prospect as raw as him. Most outlets had him projected as a mid-to-late second rounder.
“With another year of development both on and off the court, I will put myself in an even better position for the 2023 draft,” Miller said to ESPN before the draft in June.
“Going through the pre-draft process, I learned about what it takes to be a successful professional. Whether it’s the daily on-court work, off-court work, diet, or recovery, I have gained a much greater understanding of the habits it takes to get to the top of this field.”
Teams considered him a potential pick because of his perplexing physical dimensions. He stands at a tall 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan but moves with the guard-like agility of someone five inches shorter.
The 2022 OBSA MVP was a ball dominant player in his time at Fort Erie International Academy. He’ll have to adjust his game with Ignite as he’ll be sharing the floor with the likely second overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft in Henderson.
In the first game of the G League Showcase Cup against the Oklahoma City Blue, Miller scored 11 points as the team’s starting power forward and picked up five rebounds. He ended up fouling out in 26 minutes.
The hope is that he continues to dominate with his physical gifts while establishing a more stable foundation. If he does, he has the potential to be the highest selected Canadian in next year’s draft.