TORONTO - On Apr. 9th, the top Canadian high school players competed in a thrilling showcase of all-star talent at the BioSteel All Canadian Game.
The basketball game featured the top 24 male athletes born in 1999 or later who are either Canadian-born or enrolled in a Canadian institution. The athletes were chosen by a selection committee comprised of provincial/territorial representatives, clubs, coaches and scouts from across the country.
Although the Team White’s lopsided 147-131 win over Team Red might suggest a spiritless game, both teams kept the evening highly competitive throughout all 48 minutes. In a scrappy game with at least a dozen dunks, the athletes made sure to put on a good show for the audience of over 1,000 at the Goldring Centre at the University of Toronto.
Burlington native Simi Shittu, one of the top Canadian prospects, was in attendance but did not dress due to injury. He spoke on the rise of our nation’s talent and the importance of the 4th All-Canadian Game.
“Even though Canada’s basketball scene isn’t as established as the States, this game means a lot because you play with the top guys in the country,” said Simi, of Canada’s surge in the international basketball scene in the last half-decade.
“Canada Basketball really put us on the map in the world from last summer,” he explained, referring to Canada’s first ever international basketball title at the FIBA Under 19 Basketball World Cup in 2017. “Me, RJ [Barrett], Ignas [Brazdeikis], we just make a name for ourselves in the States so I guess we continue to pave the way for basketball.”
Unanimously top-ranked high school recruit RJ Barrett, who was playing at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland at the time, won the BioSteel Player of the Year award.
Players had not only the chance to represent the top talent in their country, but being named to the All-Canadian Game was also a proud moment to represent their respective cities.
“Personally it’s a big honour because I’m from Winnipeg and they’re known mostly for hockey,” said Daniel Sackey, 5’10 guard and winner of the BioSteel Dunk Contest. “It’s a huge honour to be known to make it out and represent my country and my city.”
Senior Luguentz Dort won his second consecutive All-Canadian MVP behind his 34 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
It means a lot to the young Canadians watching to see athletes from their hometown or country play on the big stage, especially to Luguentz.
“I remember watching Andrew [Wiggins] when I was really young and he was one of my favourite players. So watching him now [in the NBA], it means a lot.”
His advice for young athletes wanting to hone their game was simple.
“Stay in the gym, stay in the gym,” he repeated. “Keep working on your game.”
Accustomed to being one of the smallest guys on the team, Daniel had words of encouragement for up and coming Canadians looking to shine in a crowded court, even if they might not possess the physical gifts of the ideal NBA player.
“Don’t give up. No matter what it is don’t give up. Keep following your dreams and work hard.”