TOP 10 INFLUENTIAL PLAYERS IN CANADA BASKETBALL

Canadian hoops has grown leaps and bounds in the last decade. Summarized best by officially surpassing France for most international players in the NBA. Canada is also home to back-to-back first overall draft picks in the association and over 100 Canadian student athletes across the NCAA.

Here is a ranking and breakdown of who and how these people have played a pivotal part in the recent rise of Canadian basketball, or why these individuals are so important for Canadian basketball moving forward in 2015 and beyond.

#10 Roy Rana Rana the current coach of Ryerson University is a model example of how hard work and surrounding yourself with the right support staff pays off.

Rana started as a high school coach at Eastern Commerce in Toronto and has since climbed up the coaching ranks rather quickly. Rana is also a head coach annually at the Nike Hoops Summit, helped the Utah Jazz out in last July’s NBA summer league, bench boss for U18 Canada and little do people know that the Toronto, ON native was even a candidate for an Oregon Ducks assistant coaching job that was up for grabs last summer.

A body of work that should serve as an inspiration to young aspiring coaches in Canada moving forward.

 #9 Jay Triano Jay Triano is a retired Canadian professional basketball player, former head coach of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and currently an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers. A former Canadian men’s national team player who competed in two Olympics, he is also currently head coach of the Canadian national team, his second stint in the role.

What makes Triano so influential is how his success with the Canadians Men’s National Team in the next few years can create a culture and expectation for Canadian basketball on the international stage.

To be labelled a “Golden Generation” of players they need some glory at the international level. World class coaching is critical.

 #8 Tony McIntyre

Originally a co-founder of current power house Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) development program CIA Bounce, McIntyre in 2013 became primary owner when partner Mike George ventured into the Sports Agent industry. He is also father to Canadian international and Phoenix Suns rookie Tyler Ennis.

What makes McIntyre’s stock in Canadian basketball ever escalating is his recent appointment as Director Of Basketball Operations for Orangeville, ON’s Athlete Institute. The academy has been in business since 2012 and has a reputation for deep pockets. Take nothing away from the Tipping family ownership, they should be applauded for their appetite and vision. Game changer is McIntyre though, an aggressive and innovative basketball mind with ties to CIA Bounce. If say Thon Maker, Jamal Murray reclassify or Ed Smith and Matur Maker bolt in 2015 you can bet McIntyre already has his next power move mapped out. The marriage of McIntyre and Athlete Institute has the makings to become a basketball pipeline for both the NCAA & the NBA—easily solidifying McIntyre in this conversation.

#7 Ro Russell Love him or hate him Russell, the founder of pioneer Canadian AAU program Grassroots is largely responsible for a strong core of the current ‘Golden Generation’. When a 2008 Grassroots team that featured Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph among others became the first ever Canadian team that lifted an AAU crown, they broke the ice for Canadians. No longer did Americans think we could just produce high major collegiate players, they saw first hand we had professionals in the making.

After that crop Grassroots has still been at it. Producing professionals like Nik Stauskas, Dwight Powell, Brady Heslip etc. Russell not only takes part in their skill development but also had his finger prints all over prospects placements south of the border at various prep schools. Grassroots next wave of potential professionals features talents like Illinois State freshman MiKyle McIntosh and high school point guard at Oak Hill Academy, North Preston’s 2017 Lindell Wiggington.

#6 Mike George Before becoming the top Canadian Basketball agent out of Canada, George poured his heart into the grassroots level as co-founder of CIA Bounce. The CIA Bounce program offers players as young as 12 a mix of development, mentor-ship and the promise of playing with the best in North America. George was largely responsible for CIA Boune recruiting and still is often regarded by most as a top notch bench boss too.

The rise of CIA Bounce from travel basketball club to a bonafide talent breeder for the NBA is remarkable. Especially considering the small window that it all occurred in. Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are both products of CIA Bounce. After working magic behind the scenes and game planning as coach from the sidelines, George in 2013 ventured into the Sports Agent industry with Excel Sports. He has quickly built a stable of clients including Canadians Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, Dwight Powell among others. Power moves that pays dividends for Canadians in the professional ranks with some genuine domestic representation.

#5 George Raveling As Nike Director of International Basketball the 77 year old Raveling is a household name south of the border but deserves the same on the north side. His instrumental work has helped Canadian basketball evolve. Raveling together with Montreal, QC native Mark Bayne, the North American field rep for Nike Basketball are responsible for granting Canada a Nike EYBL team (CIA Bounce). Nike sponsors 40 of the most elite AAU basketball programs across the continent. Thirty-nine of them are based in the U.S. Meanwhile CIA Bounce is the lone Canadian wolf. A platform like no other showcasing talent and providing exposure opportunities.

More importantly Nike is an all-round advocater of Canada Basketball. Nike’s corporate support goes far beyond Nike’s business goal of “making the sale.” In addition to supplying gear to our national teams, Nike offered its corporate and creative services to Canada Basketball helping them develop a new corporate identity and team identity package too. All courtesy of Raveling and Bayne.

#4 Thon Maker

Thon Maker coming to Canada from United States to play high school was historic. Maker leaving America —a hot bed for high school basketball — for Orangeville Prep is comparable to Wayne Gretzky leaving Canada to play in Minnesota, USA. Pele leaving Brazil to play in London, England. Or even Usain Bolt in his late teens bolting Jamaica for Oakville, Ontario. Maker’s arrival in Canada cemented his place in Canadian basketball history.

However what makes this Sudanese-Australian so important to Canada can be best summed up by Curt Schillings words when he signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. With Boston mired in a World Series drought Schilling reiterated the reward at stake when he committed to the Bo Sox,

“Why sign with the Yankees? win a World Series in New York and your just another guy. If I help bring Boston a World Series I can be a legend.” said Schilling.

Schilling became just that helping the Red Sox break their championship drought in 2007. Thon Maker is important because he can become that same legend north of the border. Become just another one and done by choosing the D1 route, or become legendary utilizing his international draft status.

Maker can return to Orangeville next year and attempt to be the first NBA player to jump from a Canadian high school directly into the NBA draft. Until he pledges allegiance to a NCAA program this scenario remains not out of the realm of possibilities. A move that would be epic and the ramifications would be grand for aspiring youth basketball players across Canada

#3 Andrew Wiggins

Canada overtook France for the most international players in the NBA except no Canadian is currently an all star. Jamal Magloire in his hey day made one all star team, Steve Nash a handful but with this often touted ‘Golden Generation’ of Canadian basketball it should be imperative that one reaches these plateaus soon.

Like this current generation made reaching the NBA not just a hope, but now an expectation, they must do the same for making all-star teams, becoming league MVP candidates and eventually entering hall of fame conversations.

Just 30 games into his rookie season Wiggins has shown serious flashes of promise —a career high 29 points — and currently a front runner for the Rookie Of The Year accolade makes Andrew the front runner.

If the Vaughan, ON native can earn a reputation of winning over potential it can help elevate Canada basketball to an even higher level. Taking his Timberwolves from rags to riches is a good start. Parlaying that success on to the international stage for Team Canada will even automatically enter Wiggins in the same conversation as Vince Carter and Steve Nash for most influential basketball players in Canadian basketball history. Fingers crossed.

#2 Rowan Barrett

In 2012 when Steve Nash a two-time NBA MVP was named to lead Canada’s charge toward the Olympic podium in Rio de Janeiro for 2016 it became game on for Canadian basketball. Nash hired as General Manager of Canada’s senior men’s basketball team then appointed former CMNT stand out Rowan Barrett as an Assistant General Manager/Executive Vice-President of the senior men’s program. Barrett’s in the front office but also in the trenches.

You can catch Barrett inside gymnasiums all over North America. His job maybe the most challenging of all. Barrett has to make sure no talent including in the youth levels doesn’t go unnoticed. Must evaluate the growing number of student athletes in the NCAA ranks and more importantly manage egos in the pro player pool and balance catering to their agents and support staffs. Tall task and so far he has done an honorable job.

Our U18 squad earned it’s first ever FIBA Americas silver medal in 2014 and the U17’s plagued by injuries were still a podium contender. As for senior ranks the national team, albeit missing out on the 2014 World Championships, rebounded last summer on a European tour with a tier B squad. Vastly more competitive then it ever was under the previous regime led by Leo Rautins.

#1 Masai Ujuri

Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri has the growth of Canadian basketball in the palm of his hands. So far he has done a fantastic job shaking the ‘soft’ label that has haunted the Raptors since their existence with out Vince Carter. He has shown a sense of urgency to create a winning culture and a trend of shrewd managerial decisions (Rudy Gay trade & appointing Drake an ambassador). He has delivered Toronto a winner almost instantly.

If Ujiri can continue his success to a point where 50 win seasons are a regularity, instill a mentality where it’s win a playoff series or bust, the growth of basketball in Canada can reach uncharted waters. If there is any way for the Raptors to compete with their brethren Maple Leafs or even basketball with hockey in Canada, it all starts with the Toronto Raptors success annually.

In my best R.Kelly voice all I can say is “I believe in Masai.”

Credit: Mark Bairos, Writer, HoopsHype Canada – https://twitter.com/sonnybairos

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