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Bennett, Olynyk lead Canada’s NBA future
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On June 23, 2013 @ 4:57 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
They all know the question is coming. The answers are prepared, the quips ready.
Why didn’t you play hockey?
Some elite Canadian basketball players did, such as former Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk, who had a brief career on skates when he was younger. Some skipped the sport entirely, such as former UNLV star Anthony Bennett, who used basketball as a refuge from troubled neighborhood streets and fell in love with hoops and only hoops during hours spent at the local Boys and Girls Club.
No matter how good these basketball players are — Bennett, at 6-7, 240 and Olynyk, 7 feet, 234, are projected as lottery picks in Thursday’s NBA draft — they’ll always be asked about their home country’s most popular sport, hockey.
“Everybody plays in Canada, everyone tries it,” Olynyk said. “I liked playing it, but I liked basketball way better.”
Olynyk is not alone in preferring Steve Nash, one of eight Canadians on NBA rosters this past season, over Wayne Gretzky. He’s part of a growing nucleus of Canadian talent, a tight-knit group of young basketball stars poised to impact college basketball, the NBA and the Olympics.
Bennett, Olynyk and possibly 6-3, 180-pound point guard Myck Kabongo out of Texas (projected as a late second-round pick) soon will be among Canadians playing in the NBA, including two who were in the Finals: center Joel Anthony of the two-time chamion Miami Heat and guard Cory Joseph of the San Antonio Spurs. Five of the eight Canadians in the league were selected in the past two NBA drafts.
Next year’s draft might be headed by highly touted Andrew Wiggins, an incoming freshman at Kansas who is from the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, Ontario.
“You aren’t just hearing about this one kid anymore,” says Montreal native Bill Wennington, who played in the NBA from 1985-2000, most notably on three NBA title-winning Chicago Bulls teams. “There’s a dozen players; you can pick and choose. … Once (they become successful), more and more kids will start to get involved. The growth is going to come even more.”
Recent research by BBM Analytics, which does frequent surveys of Canadian citizens, put basketball’s … [For more on Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk lead Canada's NBA future, click here.]
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