SportsCentre Year In Review: The rise of basketball in Canada

Ryan Horne,

12/18/2013 11:58:04 AM

Leading up to SportsCentre's Year In Review on Christmas Eve, TSN and look back at each of the Top 10 stories of 2013.

Today, we look back at the rapid rise of basketball in our country.

In Canada, hockey has always been - and will most likely always be - the sport that produces the most professional talent.

Yet over the past year it seems basketball north of the border is turning a corner.

Most expected it wouldn't truly start until 2014.

Andrew Wiggins, the freshman forward from Vaughan, Ont., is dominating in college ball with the Kansas Jayhawks and should go first overall in next June's NBA draft.

Well that all might still happen, but Wiggins won't be the first Canadian to ever be selected No. 1. That title went to Toronto's Anthony Bennett of the University of Nevada, taken first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 6-8 forward hasn't had a stellar year – already getting unfairly booed by the Cleveland faithful - but the 20-year-old was never chosen with the expectation he'd coast to a Rookie of the Year award. Bennett's potential and raw athleticism was what caught the Cavaliers' eye.

Regardless, it made history and it was a proud moment for Canadian sports fans. With Wiggins playing well in Kansas and being compared to a superstar-type player, the future is looking pretty decent.

And Wiggins and Bennett are just the tip of the iceberg. On both the college and pro stage, Canucks are popping up at a rapid rate - and Canada could have the chance to not only qualify, but compete for a medal in the 2016 Olympics and beyond.

The Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson (Toronto), the Magic's Andrew Nicholson (Mississauga), the Celtics' Kelly Olynyk (Toronto), the Spurs' Cory Joseph (Toronto) and the Lakers' Robert Sacre (North Vancouver) are all young, talented and ready to put Canada on the map of basketball relevance.

Don't forget about two-time NBA champion Joel Anthony (Montreal) of the Miami Heat.

When it comes to NCAA ball – besides Wiggins – there's Kevin Pangos (Holland Landing, Ont.) of the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Nik Stauskas (Etobicoke, Ont.) of the Michigan Wolverines. Both teams are ranked in the Top 25 and will look to continue the trend when March Madness rolls around.

The days of looking up to Victoria, B.C.'s Steve Nash as the lone productive Canadian in the Association are long gone.

Whether it's better coaching at the grassroots level, more interest in the sport or just sheer luck, Canada is improving on the hardwood.

This is the golden age of Canadian basketball and it's only getting started. James Naismith would be proud.