So basically, over 120 years of basketball in Canada, we have four notable moments. But you may have noticed that three of them, happened in the last 28 years, and two over the last 5 years. So clearly, Basketball Canada is on the upswing. The anecdotal evidence of this was on display at the FIBA U19 Championships in Riga, Latvia. Including 7’4” Sim Bhullar, from Toronto, and part of the South Asian community.
Bhullar, is a great example of what the present, and future of basketball in this country are. He is a product of Canadian NBA expansion, who grew up in the Vince Carter/Tracy McGrady/Chris Bosh era in Toronto. He is representative of the multicultural framework of Canada, and the diversity within the national program.
At 7’4”, and trimmed down to 340lbs, Bhullar recently committed to playing his college basketball at Xaiver University in Cincinnati. The big man has shown an improving game at both ends of the court, to accompany his imposing frame.
Sim Bhullar, 7-4 center, signed with Xavier
U19 stats: 12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg
He suffered a broken nose in a loss to Serbia on Wednesday and said he won’t be playing for the rest of the tournament, but when he was on the floor, it was clear he’d made progress since last summer’s FIBA Americas tournament. Bhullar’s coach at Huntington Prep, Rob Fulford, said the low-post giant had lost nearly 40 pounds since transferring to the school last November, to get down to a playing weight of 340. His movements are more fluid, his hook shot has improved, and his stats have nearly doubled from his time with the Canadian team in 2010 — but he still has serious conditioning issues that put his ability to play major college minutes in question.
He chose Xavier in part because he wanted to attend a small college, and in part because he believes the Musketeers staff can help him develop into an impact center in college. “They showed me what they did with Kenny Frease,” he said. “He came in like me, then lost a lot of weight, and now he’s a starter — he’s become a good player.”
Kevin Pangos, 6-1 point guard, signed with Gonzaga
U19 stats: 11.0 ppg, 3.0 apg
He’s the rare Canadian star who didn’t go the American prep school route, but he remained a coveted recruit due to his projectability as a solid, four-year college floor general. Due to Demetri Goodson’s departure from Gonzaga to play football at Texas A&M, Pangos should be in contention to start as a freshman. “That’s my mentality,” he said, while wearing a pair of Zags shorts after Wednesday’s game. “Obviously [the starting job] won’t be given to me, because David Stockton is a great player, but in my mind it’s a possibility.”
Because some of Canada’s best scorers — Kentucky-bound Kyle Wiltjer and Pitt-bound Khem Birch — are missing from this tournament, Pangos hasn’t been able to show off his full range of playmaking skills, but Zags coach Mark Few is bullish on Pangos’ future in the West Coast Conference. “He has some things that we really value in our program at the point guard spot,” Few said. “He has a really good basketball mind, is a good passer and shooter, knows how to manipulate ball screens, has a great feel for the game and potential to be a leader. The biggest question will be how he handles the athleticism of the college game — can he still get by [college defenders] and do all the good things he’s done so far?”
Dyshawn Pierre, 6-6 small forward, Anderson CVI high school, Sr.
U19 stats: 12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg
This is the breakout star of the Canadian team, whose coach, Greg Francis, calls Pierre a “major matchup problem.” Few forwards have been able to contain him off the dribble in this tournament, and he looks ready to emerge as a high-major prospect this summer, when he plays on the main AAU circuit for the first time with CIA Bounce. He’ll be heading straight from Latvia to the Peach Jam with CIA, and he says he already has some interest from Marquette, St. Bonaventure, Iona, New Mexico State, Creighton, Duquesne and Texas Tech. Expect that list to expand by the end of the month.
Stephan Jankovic, 6-9 power forward, Huntington (W.V.) Prep, Sr.
U19 stats: 3.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg
At Huntington, Jankovic emerged as a recruit with a host of elite, major-conference offers, but he’s been somewhat of a mystery in this tournament, relegated to limited minutes coming off the bench. A YouTube poster dunk over Lithuanian star Jonas Valanciunas was one of Jankovic’s few star moments. He said that his current top five schools are Wake Forest, Georgetown, Syracuse, Florida State and Michigan, but he remains open to others, and intends to take visits in the fall.
Negus Webster-Chan, 6-8 power forward, Huntington (W.V.) Prep, Sr.
U19 stats: 2.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg
Webster-Chan has only played one minute in the past five games due to an injury, so we couldn’t evaluate him, but is a coveted four-star prospect who decommitted from Louisville earlier this year.
(The Canadian team has one current college player: Julian Clarke, a 6-3 shooting guard, redshirted at Santa Clara last season.)