There’s a new tide coming through the great white north. Kids are beginning to trade in their hockey sticks for basketballs as star Canadian prospects are being drafted into the NBA.
For many years Canada has been stereotyped as a country who lived and breathed only one sport, and that’s hockey.
Canada’s first real homegrown star didn’t come until the 1996 draft. The Phoenix Suns took British Columbia native Steve Nash 15th overall, opening the NBA world to Canadian athletes.
The NBA official website said that since 2011, 13 Canadians were taken in the NBA and three of those picks were in the top 18.
With the Toronto Raptors earning a playoff spot last year, a new era of Canadian basketball began.
Michele O’Keefe, Executive director of Canada Basketball said the Raptors have been a big contributor in nurturing the popularity of basketball in Canada.
“They’ve been in this country for 20 years now and I think they have really sparked the interest in a lot of kids and coaches,” O’Keefe said. “Basketball is a fun game and is affordable, that’s incentive for people to get involved.”
O’Keefe said their Steve Nash youth basketball program has over 17,000 kids every summer.
Mike Reio, Director of Basketball World Toronto said the adult programs generate around 1000 participants, and 300 kids are involved in their youth program. Reio said NBA draftees such as Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson have given hope for kids with dreams of making it to the NBA.
“They have given the opportunity for players to believe in pursuing their dream,” said Reio. “If they have been able to achieve getting to the highest level of playing basketball in the NBA, then it gives other young individuals, who are aspiring to be like them the belief that they can do the exact same thing.”
Second-year Humber business marketing student Harry Pathmanathan, 19, said Canada has shown over the last few years what they are able to bring to the table.
With the recent success of the Raptors and Canadian basketball athletes, basketball in this country has reached heights never seen before and only looks to improve in the years to come.