Tyler Ennis, other 2014 Draft prospects putting Canada on basketball map

Tyler Ennis rises for a layup against Corliss Williamson  during his pre-draft visit to Sacramento. (Photo: Jason Wise)

The NBA is highly regarded for globalizing the game of basketball. From South America to Europe, basketball has spanned across oceans and continents, producing international talents that have taken their game to the states.   But only recently has some of that talent started to come from our neighbors in the north.

Tyler Ennis, the heralded point guard out of Syracuse, is one of several Canadian prospects in this year’s draft. Ennis joins Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas as potential first-round picks from Canada in this summer’s pool.  They also lead a crop of talented young players who are showing the NBA that Canadians have game, too.

Credit the influence of Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors for the recent surge of Canadian players charging the league. Prospects like Ennis, Wiggins and Stauskas as well as current pros like Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Cory Joseph all grew up idolizing Carter in the prime of his career. Carter’s high-flying act with the Raptors played a major role to inspire this generation of Canadian-born talent.

“He was big,” Ennis said of the 37-year-old veteran. “I think he kind of budded the interest of the kids. Myself, growing up in Toronto, seeing him, going to the playoffs, superstars playing right down the street from you in Toronto kind of makes you want to play basketball. I think that definitely helped, not only myself, but the generation that you’re seeing of Canadian players.”

Ennis claims he had an interest in basketball a little before Carter touched down in Toronto in 1998. However, he believes that Canada’s passion in hoops spiked after the 37-year-old veteran’s early success with the Raptors.

“I think the general population got interested in basketball after they seen so much with Vince Carter and him being a superstar in the NBA at the time,” Ennis said. “And I think that really helped basketball pick up in Canada.”

Ennis is the top pure point guard in this year’s draft. As a pass-first, shoot-later player, it’s hard not to think of Steve Nash, another floor general that hails from Canada, in relation to the 19-year-old guard . Ennis has a long way to go before scratching any of Nash’s success.  But as an aspiring NBA point guard from Canada, it is a prerequisite to look up to the 2005 and 2006 NBA MVP.

“I think you have to be growing up in Canada,” Ennis said of idolizing Nash. “Doing so much things in the NBA – MVPs and All-Stars. Just putting Canada on the map. I think he’s the ambassador for Canadian basketball.”

Ennis also recalls former Kings guard Doug Christie and his time spent north of the border. Christie spent five years with the Raptors before being traded to Sacramento back in 2000.

“I remember when he was on Toronto and how much heart he played with,” Ennis said of the ex-Kings shooting guard.

Ennis, Wiggins and Stauskas won’t be the last players to come out of Canada and make their imprints on the NBA. Ennis suggests looking out for Jamal Murray, another guard who hails from Ontario, as the next big thing to come out of Canada. The 17-year-old was invited to play at the annual Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, which features some of the top up-and-coming basketball talent in the world.

“There’s definitely talent coming up from Canada,” Ennis said. “And I don’t think Canadian basketball stops here. I think it’s gonna continue and kids are gonna come down here and prove themselves.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.