Andrew Wiggins Picked First Overall in NBA Draft
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Andrew Wiggins Picked First Overall in NBA Draft

It was a big night for the Vaughan native, and for basketball in the GTA.

Last night, at the 2014 NBA draft, Vaughan’s Andrew Wiggins became the second straight Canadian and second straight player from the GTA to be picked first overall, following Jane and Finch native Anthony Bennett’s no. 1 drafting in 2013. Both players were selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who also drafted Brampton’s Tristan Thompson with the no. 4 pick in 2011.

And Wiggins wasn’t the only one: three other GTA players also joined the NBA ranks last night. Mississauga’s Nik Stauskas went eighth to the Sacramento Kings, Tyler Ennis went 18th to the Phoenix Suns, and Dwight Powell went 45th to Cleveland (who at this point should probably just change their name to the Cleveland Canadians). Other Torontonian players such as Melvin Ejim (who was the NCAA’s Big 12 Player of the Year playing for Iowa State University) and Sim Bhullar (the two-time Western Athletic Conference Tournament MVP playing for New Mexico State University) went undrafted but will most likely be invited to the NBA Summer League, where they’ll try to impress teams into taking a chance on them.

The sudden and dramatic influx of GTA talent into the NBA—and we haven’t even provided a full list, considering we haven’t mentioned Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic (via Mississauga), Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics (born and raised in Toronto before moving to Kamloops), or Cory Joseph of the current NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (out of Ajax)— becomes a lot more understandable when you realize that these young men just entering the NBA are the kids who grew up with Vince Carter.

Carter’s basketball camps laid the groundwork for a generation of kids who wanted to become basketball players. When Carter left Toronto, basketball lovers like Tony McIntyre and Mike George created basketball programs that eventually became CIA Bounce, one of the two major basketball development programs in the GTA, along with Ro Russell’s Grassroots Canada. (Mike George famously appeared on Deal or No Deal Canada and won $144,000, donating half of it to his program. Chris Bosh made a taped appearance on the show to promote CIA Bounce.) In less than a decade, Toronto has developed basketball youth training infrastructure that churns out talented players at a remarkable rate—all the more impressive since it was effectively created from scratch.

The first generation of “graduates” from these programs began arriving at American NCAA basketball programs in 2010. We are just seeing the end of that generation now, and the next generation—including young talents like Justin Jackson, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Chris Egi—are getting ready for their turn.

As for the Toronto Raptors, their 2014 draft experience was definitely surprising—especially to those people who’d never heard of the team’s first-round pick (including most of the Toronto sportswriters live-tweeting the draft). With the 20th pick, the Raptors drafted Bruno Caboclo, an 18-year-old kid from Brazil who also happens to be 6’9″ with a 7’7″ wingspan (and who is apparently still growing).

Earlier in the day, there were rumours that the Raptors had discussed a trade whereby they would take on Tayshaun Prince’s contract from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for also receiving the 22nd pick. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri later confirmed that the Raps had indeed explored that possibility, but only because they had been hoping to draft Tyler Ennis with the 20th pick (thereby drafting a Canadian player for the first time) and then Caboclo with the 22nd. When Phoenix drafted Ennis at no. 18, though (and, despite numerous overtures from the Raps, proved unwilling to trade him), Ujiri gave up and simply drafted Caboclo—who is clearly very, very raw, but also clearly has a lot of promise and can hopefully be nurtured and trained into a good NBA player.

The Raptors also drafted DeAndre Daniels with the 37th pick. Daniels was a key part of the University of Connecticut’s NCAA tournament victory this past spring; he’s a big, athletic forward with a good shooting stroke who the Raptors believe can be taught to defend at an NBA level. The Raptors were looking for wing players, and he fits the bill.