#LookUpToTheNorth, because Canadian basketball is only getting better.
Monday night at the Gold Ring Centre for High Performance is where the top Canadian basketball talents were for the second annual BioSteel All-Canadian Game. 24 student-athletes from all over the nation were split into two teams of Canada’s colours: red and white.
Team Red made a huge comeback in the second half, taking the game 153 – 134 over Team White after falling early in the first half.
Team White started the game off strong, covering the floor on both ends. Once Marcus Carr hit a quick three during the first possession of the game, they set the fast-paced momentum by pushing the ball up the court, attacking the rim all while being everywhere on defense.
This team consisted of a 12-man roster full of hometown natives, going to school just outside of Toronto. Their chemistry was undeniable on the court and on the bench, coming together early to encourage on their teammates. After the initial twelve minutes, Head Coach John Campbell found his squad up 37 – 23.
Coach Campbell is also the University of Toronto Men’s basketball head coach, where the team played on the same court all season. Post-game he told the media this facility “was built for this kind of showcase, our basketball community is excited to be part of it and hopefully, we can be for a long time” as it was an honour and privilege to host the BioSteel All-Canadian Game.
The BioSteel Game models itself somewhat to the Nike Hoop Summit, which held its 22nd showcase Friday night in Portland, Oregon. In a similar fashion, a team of under-19 players from across the globe competes against an under-19 team chosen by USA Basketball. The Nike Hoop Summit is where all NBA scouts and general managers found themselves.
Although the Nike Hoop Summit is a larger platform than the BioSteel All-Canadian stage, that is said lightly. Jonathon Givony, founder of DraftExpress said: “everyone knows Canadians can really play, it’s been proven over and over again, and there’s a lot more coming.”
BioSteel All-Canadian’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who has committed to Virginia Tech and played on Team White and Luguentz Dort who played for Team Red and won co-MVP played at the Nike Hoop Summit.
In fact, Givony sent a scout to the BioSteel Game: “we have to scout Canada just a strongly as we scout the U.S. That’s where it’s at.”
Alongside Dort, Matur Maker won co-MVP for Team White and he proved he deserved it from the beginning of the game. Maker put his 6’10” length to use as the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks forward, Thon Maker, led his team with 25 points, going 9-10 from the foul line and making 8 of his 11 attempted field goals. Out of all the starters from Team White, Maker is the only one undecided to a post-secondary location.
Alexander-Walker has committed to Virgina Tech, Marcus Carr and Shameil Stevenson are headed to Pittsburgh, and Oshea Brissett will call Syracuse home. Maker said he had more to play for than those who have figured out their next step: “I came in the game, just playing like it’s my last because it was my last one. I had a different mindset than everybody else, that’s how I went in.”
However, it was co-MVP Luguentz Dort, Montreal, Quebec native who is also uncommitted, that changed the tempo of the game. At the half, Team Red was able to cut the deficit and tie the game at 69 a piece. Dort elevated to the rim twice, getting the crowd on their feet and gained nods of approval from Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan and Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman. Dort brought the intensity and aggression that the team was missing in the first half. They started off by taking bad shots, but once Dort showed everyone the powerhouse player he is, Team Red was able to take control of the game when at one point it seemed as though they had no chance to come back.
Team Red pulled away in the second half. It was over when Howard Washington Jr, Syracuse commit hit a deep three followed by a steal and breakaway dunk from Dort to put Team Red up 129-106. Jerome Desrosiers from Quebec helped changed the pace and got more physical when the team really needed it, taking a team-high two steals and dropping 13 points.
As Team White was unable to make their shots, despite a 12-point half from Stefan Smith, 20 from Brissett and 19 scored by Alexander-Walker, the sold-out crowd began to clear out of the arena.
The game took a twist of events with the lead changing seven times, but the boys were all smiles at the end of the game. They realized the stage they just played on, and it was an All-Star game after all.
Team Red Head Coach Chris Cheng said he had a lot of fun, and his four players from Quebec were “phenomenal.”
Coach Cheng has done an exceptional job with the Nipissing Lakers basketball program this year, as they hosted and played in their first-ever OUA playoff game.
At the end of the night, reality set in as it was a school night and these athletes are students first, who are all lucky enough to use their academics to play at the next level.
The slogan for this game was “Start Unknown and Finish Unforgettable,” and that’s what these players accomplished Monday night.