In the last few years we've seen the depth of talent coming out of Canada grow at a rapid pace. Last night, Canada Basketball put it's talent on display in the first Junior Men's National Team Red & White game. This year's group of U18 Jr Nats have been labeled the most talented group Canada has ever assembled. Led by Scout.com's #1 player in the class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, Canada is preparing for this years FIBA Americas with medal aspirations.
Xavier Rathan–Mayes, SG -- Every team needs a guy who can go out and get buckets and X is that guy for the Canadian Jr.Nats. Xavier is a good, but streaky long range shooter with a very polished middle game and an impressive killer instinct. He made shots from all over the floor in the red/white game but missed the biggest one of the night down two at the buzzer. Don't be surprised if Xavier gets more opportunities to take big shots for Canada this summer. He was wired for the big moment and will be Canada's primary scorer in the backcourt.
Tyler Ennis, PG -- Ennis is the engine of this years group and will have the difficult task of keeping everyone happy while continuing to run good offense. Tyler's calm demeanour and feel for the game should make him a perfect fit with this group. Tyler spent the red & white game getting to know his new weapon Trey Lyles, while fine tuning his own ability to run a new system. With the game on the line and seconds left, Tyler drove the lane and made an acrobatic layup at the rim which eventually gave his team the win.
Matthew Atawe, C -- Atewe will have the responsibility of controlling the paint and protecting the rim. Matthew has tremendous length, improving footwork, and just good enough timing to make a difference in the middle for Team Canada. This setting wasn't exactly a feeding frenzy for low post players, but Matthew showed flashes of what he can do defensively. He'll need to play at a high level throughout the tournament in order for Canada to live up to its lofty expectations.
Andrew Wiggins, SF -- This is the first time that Andrew has worn Canada across his chest and been the clear cut go-to guy. He was the youngest player on the 2010 Cadets (U17), but came off the bench on a team that featured Anthony Bennett and Kevin Pangos. This time around Andrew will be expected to carry the load, and he certainly looked up to the task last night. Andrew will do a little bit of everything for coach Roy Rana and we saw some of that on display in the red & white game. Wiggins demonstrated a willingness to play in the post and sit on guys down on the low block. He then stepped outside and made deep three's, before showing off his one dribble pull up, float game, and above the rim arsenal. Andrew wasn't all the way engaged but showed just enough to understand he'll be among the most difficult matchups in the tournament.
Trey Lyles, PF -- While most know Lyles as an Indiana guy, he was actually born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Last night was the first time Lyles played for Canada, and the first time the Canadian basketball community has seen him live. He certainly didn't disappoint. Trey proved capable of rebounding in and out of his area, making shots facing the rim, and taking his man off the dribble. While it was evident he wasn't quite comfortable with the offense or his teammates yet, his talent and ability to stretch the defense will be a welcomed addition to the roster. Go ahead and pencil him in as the starting four man.
*Kaza Keane appears to be locked in as the backup point guard. He'll be a freshman at Illinois State in the fall, but will spend his summer playing a pivotal role off the bench for the Canadian Junior National Team. Kaza's ability to make shots will allow coach Rana to slide him over to the two and play beside Tyler, while his ability to take care of the basketball will provide the staff with a lead guard the staff can trust when Ennis needs a blow.
*The battle for the two remaining reserve guard spots in the rotation is down to four. Duane Notice (6-3, 2013), Jamal Reynolds (6-3, 2013), Joe De Ciman (6-5, 2013), and Joseph Chartouny (6-3, 2012) are currently fighting for their national team lives. Notice and De Ciman both have international experience and both players were aggressive going to the rim during the red & white game.
*There are also three reserve forward slots up for grabs. Isaiah Watkins (6-8, 2013), Agunwa Okolie (6-7, 2012), Mikyle McIntosh (6-6, 2013), Braxston Bunce (6-10, 2012), Marko Pirovic (6-7, 2013), Denzell Taylor (6-6, 2013), and Conor Morgan (6-8, 2013) all bring something different to the table. Which three end up making the trip to Brazil is anybody's guess at this point.
*Tyler Ennis will narrow his list by the end of summer. It would be a major surprise if Syracuse, UCLA, Memphis, and Louisville weren't among the schools left standing in his recruitment.
*6-10 Matthew Atewe credited his dramatic improvement to practicing everyday with Notre Dame Prep teammate, Steven Adams. He currently has a long list of suiters that includes Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Purdue, San Diego State, and St.Bonaventure.
*St.Benedict's PF Isaiah Watkins has more than 40 offers. He lists Harvard, Princeton, Iowa State, UNC Charlotte, and Temple as the schools he is currently communicating with the most. Watkins is currently in the process of scheduling visits with UNC Charlotte and Temple.
*Andrew Wiggins isn't known for being a vocal leader. Despite that, he is ready to put his teammates on his back and accept the challenge. According to Andrew, "My coach and my teammates are expecting a lot from me on and off the court. I'm ready for the responsibility and excited for the challenge of proving I can provide for them."
*Prior to the Red & White game, Canada Basketball showed off its next generation of talent in their Future Prospects Game. It appears as if Texas floor general Myck Kabongo passed down the speed and court vision which made him a McDonald's All-American to his younger brother Jonathon. The 5-8, soon to be 8th grader looks like Myck, plays like Myck, and carries himself like Myck. While he still has a few years to hone his craft before anyone can even begin to evaluate him, there were definitely a few moments watching Jonathon where I started having flashbacks.