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Canadians make way into prestigious Jordan Brand Classic

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TSN.ca Staff
2/16/2011 4:30:11 PM
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The 2011 Jordan Brand Classic is getting a historic infusion of talent from up north.

Canadians Myck Kabongo, Kyle Wiltjer and Khem Birch will participate in the 10th annual event, at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte on Apr. 16.

Kabongo, from Toronto, ranks second among guards in ESPNU's top 100 players and ninth overall. The 6'2" guard was with the Canadian Junior Men's National bronze medal team at the 2010 U18 FIBA Americas Championship. On his prep team, the Findlay Prep Pilots in Henderson, NV, are 24-2 this season and are ranked the fifth best team in the nation.

Wiltjer, who's from Oregon but played for Canada because of his father's Canadian roots, is ranked 15th. The 6-foot-9 forward led the Canadian Junior team with 27 points in the bronze medal game against Argentina at the U18 FIBA's. His Jesuit Crusaders squad in Portland, OR, is off to a 17-2 start this season and are rated 18th best in the nation.

The Montreal-bred Birch is currently the top prospect out of the New England area, and ESPNU has him as the best centre prospect and 11th best prospect overall. The 6-foot-9 centre has helped Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, MA become one of the top teams in the Northeast area. He was also at the U18 FIBA tourney, and was one of the top rebounders at the event.

"On behalf of Canada Basketball first I'd like to congratulate Kyle, Mike and Khem for this historic achievement," said Rowan Barrett, Director of Youth Player Development for Canada Basketball, in a statement.  "For the first time in the event's 10-year history, three Canadians will be participating in the Jordan Brand Classic.  It shows that our nation continues to make its mark with our young up-and-coming talent on the world stage."

The Jordan Brand Classic is among the most heralded prep tournaments, with an alumni roster that includes many of the premier players currently in the NBA, including Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.

"The Jordan brand Classic is one of the premier events for high school players across the US and internationally, and should provide another great experience for young players in their development," Barrett added.

The three players already have the next step decided. Kabongo will be going to the University of Texas, where he will join a pair of other Canadians in the Longhorns fold - Tristan Thompson (Brampton) and Cory Joseph (Ajax). Birch will be headed to the Big East Conference and perennial power Pittsburgh, while Wiltjer will head to the Southeast Conference and suit up for John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats.

The three also comprise the largest Canadian class to ever suit up for the upcoming McDonald's All American Game, which is now in its 34th season.

"It is a clear indication that the future of Canadian basketball is in good hands," George Raveling, Nike's Director of International Basketball, said in a statement.  "In the coming years we will continue to see more development from young players in Canada."

Myck Kabongo (Photo: Damian Strohmeyer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Damian Strohmeyer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
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