Canadians have had large roles in major programs recently.
With the upcoming college basketball season set to start, there are a number of Canadians making their debuts on college campuses throughout the country. A record three Canadians made both the Jordan Brand and McDonald’s All-American Games in 2011, and they lead the way for a new crop of Canadian college players.
Here is my list of the top four Canadian freshman, and the role they look to play in their first year on campus.
Pangos is the biggest question mark of these freshmen, because he decided to stay in Canada for his high school career.
He is not incredibly athletic, but he has all the skills and attributes needed to become a great point guard. Pangos has a high basketball IQ, and can shoot, pass and lead a team. He led the Canadian Cadet National Team to a third place finish at the U17 World Championships, and was named the top point guard at the tournament.
This past summer, Pangos was also one of the top performers on the Canadian Junior National at the World Championships, where he was second on the team in scoring.
While the everyday competition in Canada was not as good, the international experience shows his ability to play against top competition. Look for Pangos to take over the point guard spot at Gonzaga this season.
Wiltjer is one of the four All-Americans at Kentucky this year.
While he is not a freak athlete, he does have more then enough skill to make up for this. Wiltjer is a match-up nightmare, with his ability to hit threes, use skyhooks and other post moves, pass and rebound.
He showed off his three-point shooting skills at the McDonald’s All-American Game by winning the three-point contest. He is often overlooked, because he is the lowest ranked of Kentucky’s four top-twenty recruits. Only at Kentucky can you be the 19th-ranked prospect and be overlooked!
While he may not have as much impact as Davis, Teague or Kidd-Gilchrist, look for Wiltjer to be the sixth or seventh man and to get some work done off the bench.
For Khem Birch, it is all about his athleticism.
Regarded as one of the best shot blockers coming out of high school, defense and rebounding are where he excels. Could there be a better school for him than Pitt?
Offense, however, is not his strong point, as most of his points come off of put-back dunks or offensive rebounds.
Ahead of him in the power forward and center spots at Pitt are Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor, but expect Birch to fit into Pittsburgh’s style of play and to be a steady contributor in his freshman season.
Kabongo comes into his freshman season as the Canadian freshman most poised to make an immediate impact for two reasons.
First, Kabongo graduated from Findlay Prep, which has become known for its ability to prepare athletes for college basketball, with an emphasis on defense. Players out of Findlay include Avery Bradley and fellow Canadians and former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph.
Second, Texas lost all of their starters from last season to the NBA or graduation. Look for Kabongo to immediately apply his passing, leadership, defense and scoring to the Longhorns.