A Sporting Coup: Basketball in Canada

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterFebruary 18, 2008

I sat on the sidelines with my coaches board in hand, looking down at my bench. I am an assistant coach with one of the top rep teams in Ontario consisting primarily of 14 year olds. Looking down at the smiling faces of the guys on the bench I thought to myself, 'this is unreal.' The talent pool of kids in Ontario and all of Canada for that matter has grown exponentially since I had played eleven years ago.

Since the Raptors entered the NBA on November 3, 1995 the game has developed by leaps and bounds. The sport as an entity in itself has become a mainstay in this hockey country as year after year gyms, playgrounds and schools have become filled with hallow sounds of balls bouncing, rims clanking and trash talk spewing; the game is ever-present.

Kids as young as give learn the intricacies of the game, causing a sporting coup in this revolutionary time of sport supremacy.

Whether one can say it was the Raptors who helped put the sport on the map, the reworking of Canada Basketball and the influence/emergence of Steve Nash as a national icon for the sport, or the tireless efforts of volunteer coaches who put in countless hours helping to develop the game, no one can be too sure (for the record, in Canada high school and rep coaches don't get paid for their services. It's all based on volunteering and the generosity of those—like myself—wanting to teach and expand the game). Nevertheless one thing is clear, the talent that is sitting on my bench is far greater now than I had ever seen eleven years ago.

In a place where hockey is considered "our game," the cost of playing our national sport has risen to thousands of dollars a year. Basketball, on the other hand, is an economically friendly sport that allows kids and families from all walks of life to partake in it's beauty and grace.

As part of a coaching staff dedicated to developing skills, talent and basketball I.Q, we look to prepare kids to take their game to that elusive next level. It is a mindset that seems to be shared by coaches across this great country, as year after year we see more and more Canadians being recruited by U.S colleges, and making a name for themselves in the 'show'.

It is something that the great James Naismith could have only dreamed of when he invented the sport back in 1891 (when it was called "Duck on a Rock").

I am inspired by the eagre faces of the 14 year olds, who also play high school ball- despite the talent level being a tad inferior to that of the rep leagues (equivalent to AAU teams in the U.S). I see that the talent of each one of the players, when harnessed properly has no limits. On this team, who the season before went 45-0 and ultimately went on to win the Canadian Nationals for their age group, there are at least six players who in my humble opinion have the potential to play D1 ball at the very least.

What is astounding to me most of all is that of the twelve players on our team, eight can dunk the ball- at age 14 (something I thought I'd never see)! But it is natural and inherent love for the game and desire to have fun while playing that shines through each game and practice.

And that is what the game is all about.

Though we as Canadians typically go under the radar, I will guarantee that if the game continues on the path that it has taken in this country over the past decade, Canadian ballers will be on everybody's radar.