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(Photo by Gabe Souza)

There is this vision that Canadian basketball fans have about their own Canadian basketball players. It is the vision that lies in the NBA draft, years in the future. On that day, whenever that day is, CIS college athletes will be drafted to NBA teams with regularity and that league would be a breeding ground for NBA talent. This is a vision that has not yet come to pass, however, in the D-League there is one coach that is hoping for this vision to become a reality. That coach is Maine Red Claws head coach Scott Morrison. His hope is that CIS student athletes will be able not only get drafted, but thrive in the NBA. However to do so, he believes that a student athlete in the CIS needs to take a chance and play in the D-League. In fact after the Red Claws 122-117 win over the Canton Charge on Day 2 of the D-League showcase, Coach Morrison opened up about him trying to get CIS players to play in the D-League and the difficulties with accomplishing that task

“I’ve tried to get a couple guys here. I’ve been a big fan of guys like Owen Klassen… Phil Scrubb… I think some of those guys could open some eyes if they had a chance on a bigger stage. But it’s a catch 22. I mean, the D-League is not a high paying league. Most of those guys could make more money overseas. So it’s a big risk for them, but I’ve tried.” Said head coach Morrison.

Nonetheless, that vision is closer than one thinks and coach Scott Morrison could very well be the Catalyst for CIS athletes being able to stay in Canada and one day getting drafted to the NBA. If there is doubt that Morrison could be a pioneer for CIS basketball, than all one needs to do is look at Scott Morrison’s road to the NBA D-League.

Morrison, was once just a Canadian boy living in Prince Edward Island. He found his first head coaching job in 2002 as the head coach for Dalhousie Tigers women’s team. He then found himself at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and turned that team around. Lakehead went from being the worst team in the OUA to making it to four consecutive national championship tournaments. During that time, Morrison also led Lakehead to the OUA Championship, aka the Wilson Cup, by knocking off the Carleton Ravens in the finals.

Morrison then took a sabbatical in 2013 to volunteer for the Boston Celtics affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. However, Morrison was hired as the head coach for the Red Claws nearly a year later. In his first year as the coach of the Red Claws, Morrison won the NBA D-League Coach of the Year for his hard work. This is something that Morrison admits is still surreal to him when he thinks about it. “It was kind of nice to take pause and think back over the few years and even the last 10-12 years (of) the journey that I took to this point.” said Morrison about his journey

However for Morrison, he also admits that there is still some work to be done. “My motto is if you’re thinking about what you did yesterday, than you haven’t done much yet today. So I try to stay focused on my own personal goals, as well as the goals of the team.”

Now one may ask, what does Coach Morrison have to do with CIS talent playing in the NBA? Well that is a good question. Morrison is a coach who has exemplified what it takes for a CIS coach or athlete to make it to the D-League. In some ways, he is looked at as a pioneer, a trailblazer. One thing that cannot be denied is that wherever he goes, he has been really successful. A former OUA coach of the year, an OUA champion and NBA D-League coach of the year. However, it is the way Morrison has achieved all his accolades. He has shown that a CIS coach can be successful in the D-League, to the point where one has to consider him as a possibly of being on a NBA coaching staff at some point in the near future.

Therefore the question now becomes, if Scott Morrison can be a successful NBA D-League coach coming out of the CIS, why not a CIS athlete? This is a question that haunts most CIS student athletes. As a right now, the CIS is still seen as a league that cannot produce NBA level talent just yet. With that being said, Coach Morrison hopes that a CIS athlete can do what he has done, use the D-League to prove that a CIS talent can be successful. “Hopefully someday we get a guy in the D-League that is Canadian trained, in the CIS and maybe takes a year or two but sticks with it and maybe cracks an NBA roster someday.” Said Morrison hoping one day a CIS player makes an impact in the NBA.

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