Pick 6: From Bennett to Wiggins, Canada sending lots of great players to NCAA Division I hoops
Wednesday, Jan 08, 2014 02:15 pm
Anthony Bennett last summer became the first Canadian player to be selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft. In a few months, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins could be the second in a row.
Oh, Canada is producing quite a bevy of talented basketball players.
While Bennett stayed only one season at UNLV, and Wiggins is expected to have a short stay in Lawrence, the Jayhawks' silky-smooth swingman is among 97 players on NCAA Division I rosters this season with Canadian hometowns, according to STATS.
Here are six (well, seven if you count a set of teammates) of the top U.S. college basketball players from north of the border. There is at least one from each class, including the consensus No. 1 recruit last summer, a towering centre and a guard who has already been the NCAA Final Four:
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas. The 6-foot-8 swingman is the top freshman scorer in the Big 12, pacing the 18th-ranked Jayhawks with nearly 16 points a game. Wiggins was only the second freshman ever to be named a preseason AP All-American — North Carolina's Harrison Barnes was the other three years ago. With Wiggins, Kansas is a top contender for its 10th consecutive Big 12 title even after a tough non-conference slate with four losses. Wiggins' dad is a former NBA player, his mom was a track standout who represented Canada in two Olympics, and his older brother Nick plays at Wichita State.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona St. The 7-foot-2 senior centre is the national leader with 4.9 blocks per game — his 74 are more than 298 NCAA Division I teams have altogether going into this week's games. Bachynski is third on the Pac-12 career list with 255, trailing former Arizona players Anthony Cook (278) and Channing Frye (258). He also averages 12.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. At 24, he is the oldest player on the Sun Devils roster, and wears No. 13 in honour of two-time NBA MVP and fellow Canadian Steve Nash.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College. The sophomore guard, one of three active ACC players from Canada, is second in that league with 19.9 points a game. Hanlan was the ACC's top freshman last season, and had 41 points against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament. The 6-foot-4 guard can score with anybody, with four 25-point games already this season, and is 34 points from becoming the ACC's career-leading Canadian scorer.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan. After averaging 11 points as a freshman starter last season when the Wolverines went to the NCAA championship game, Stauskas is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring this season with 17.8 points a game and fourth with 3.6 assists a game. He is a lethal 3-pointer shooter, making 46 per cent of his shots from beyond the arc.
Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery, Baylor. Heslip, a member of Canada's national team, is the Big 12's top 3-pointer shooter (39 of 79, 49 per cent). The 6-2 senior guard, who went to Boston College before transferring, comes off the bench for the No. 7 Bears. Chery is a junior college transfer who stepped in as the starting point guard after Pierre Jackson led the Bears to an NCAA regional final and then an NIT championship. The 6-1 junior guard is averaging 11.2 points with 73 assists to 29 turnovers.
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga. Yet another sharp shooter from up north, Pangos is the West Coast Conference's leading 3-point shooter at 48 per cent (49 of 102). The junior guard for the No. 22 Bulldogs is fourth in the WCC in scoring (17.4 ppg), and ninth in assists (4.1) and steals (1.3). He plays nearly 34 minutes and takes care of the ball, with three times as many assists as turnovers (65-22).
Honourable mentions: Melvin Ejim and Naz Long of Iowa State. Ejim is the leading scorer for the No. 9 Cyclones (14-0), off to best start in school history ... Morehead State senior centre Chad Posthumus, second nationally with 12.4 rebounds a game ... Matthew Wright, St. Bonaventure; ... Dwight Powell, Stanford ... Tyler Ennis, Syracuse.