It has been happening for a while now. It seems like every season, another couple of Canadian players get drafted to the NBA. But they are also beginning to make a name for themselves in the NCAA tournament as well. Previous tournaments have featured talented Canadians such as Andrew Wiggins, whose Kansas Jayhawks were defeated by Dwight Powell’s Stanford Cardinals in 2014. While in 2015 Trey Lyles and his Kentucky Wildcats were upset in the Final Four, destroying what could have been a perfect season. This year is different, there has never been such a major Canadian connection in the Final Four. Three of the four teams have Canadians on their roster. Had Kentucky beaten North Carolina, all four of the teams would have boasted a Canuck on their team with three-point specialist and Windsor, Ontario native Mychal Mulder being a member of the Wildcats.
Dustin Triano – Junior Guard
This is a team that has a long history with Canadian players and has boasted Canadian internationals Kelly Olynyk, Robert Sacre, Kyle Wiltjer, and Kevin Pangos. The first three of those players have all played in the NBA. This is a down year for the Bulldogs in respects to this season’s roster, despite their long history of players from the North. They have just one Canadian – Dustin Triano, a 6’3″ junior guard from Vancouver, British Columbia. His father is the current head coach of the national Canadian Men’s National team, while his cousin Brady Heslip is a former Baylor Bears star and currently plays for the Toronto Raptors D-League affiliate, the Raptors 905.
Triano is not a big player for Gonzaga, a team that’s loaded at guard with the likes of Nigel Williams-Goss, Silas Melson, and Josh Perkins. He has only played 3.1 minutes per game this season and is scoring 0.6 points per game. Triano has appeared in two games in the NCAA tournament, against Saint Mary’s and Xavier and has not attempted a shot. Triano is not a key player on this team, but still has a roster spot on one of the best teams in the country.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Duane Notice – Senior Guard
Unlike Gonzaga, South Carolina does not have a long history of Canadian players. However, one of their key guards, Duane Notice hails from Woodbridge, Ontario. The senior guard is a member of Frank Martin’s first recruiting class at South Carolina and has been one of the best players in the tournament for the Gamecocks. Notice is a 6’2 guard who his teammates call the best perimeter on the roster. Notice credits his defensive ability from playing on the same AAU team as NBA players Andrew Wiggins and Tyler Ennis as well as top 100 ESPNU recruit and current Florida State point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes. A member of the Canadian u19 team back in 2012, Notice has represented Canada at multiple youth levels.
The 2016 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, Notice has carved out a place in the starting rotation as a “three and D” player. Notice is averaging 10 points per game this season while shooting a respectable 34% from three. His best game of the tournament came in that thrilling upset over the Duke Blue Devils in the second round. Notice scored 17 points on 6-8 shooting from the field while shutting down superstar Luke Kennard, who only had 11 points. He will probably be remembered best for his game sealing breakaway dunk against Florida in the Elite Eight.
Dana Altman seems to have had a love affair with Canadian players and seems to have one or two every season. Canadian alumni include Jason Calliste, Olu Ashaolu and Devoe Joseph. Devoe Joseph is the brother of Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph and cousin of former Boston Celtics draft pick and Syracuse Orange star Kris Joseph. This particular roster has three Canadians, all of whom are key players to the success of the Ducks; Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, and Dylan Ennis. Brooks and Ennis come from suburban Toronto, Ontario, while Chris Boucher is from Montreal, Quebec.While all three of these players will be leaving Oregon after this season, the Ducks will continue their connection with Canada as four-star recruit Abu Kigab recently committed to playing in Eugene.
Dillon Brooks attended the highly touted Findley Prep in high-school and was a four-star recruit. He has had a breakout season during his Junior year. His list of accolades is extensive but it includes; Pac-12 Player of the year; two-time First-Team All-Pac-12; Second-Team All-American. He has represented Canada at multiple youth levels, most notably the Pan-Am games where he won a silver medal, defeating the United States in the semi-Finals and as a member of the FIBA Americas u-18, where he was the tournaments leading scorer.
Brooks is known for his big-shot making, having made three buzzer beating shots this season. The 6’7 forward is averaging 16.3 points while shooting 41% from three this season. While he has not had the most spectacular tournament, he has made clutch shots all tournament long. If Oregon wants to beat North Carolina in the Final Four, Brooks will have to have a career game, something he is very capable of doing. Most mock drafts have him pegged as a late first to early second round pick and will be playing in the Association next season.
Chris Boucher has one of the most intriguing stories in the NCAA tournament. Sports Illustrated did a great piece on him about his early struggles in life. Born in Saint-Lucia, he moved to Montreal when he was young where he played soccer. He did not start playing organized basketball until he was 18, since then, his rise to stardom have been nothing short of incredible. The 6’10 Boucher played two-years of JUCO basketball where he won player of the year in his sophomore season before transferring to Oregon. An unheralded prospect, Boucher is now on everyone’s draft board, despite tearing his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament.
An elite rim protector, Boucher has averaged nearly three blocks per game in his two-year career at Oregon. Blessed with incredible timing and a 7’5.5-foot wingspan, Boucher is a tower in the middle of the Ducks defence along with his teammate Jordan Bell. Despite his slight 200-pound frame, Boucher takes advantage of his athleticism by grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game. What makes him a special prospect is his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. A career 35% shooter from behind the arc, Boucher has all the skill to make it at the next level.
Dylan Ennis’ path to Eugene is not a typical one. The oldest player in the tournament at 25-years old, Ennis is the older brother of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Tyler Ennis. The rare sixth-year senior, Oregon is Ennis’ third stop in his collegiate career. Growing up in Brantford, Ontario, Ennis committed to Rice University where he played one season before transferring to Villanova. He was a member of the Wildcats for three seasons, however he only actually played one. Ennis had to sit out his first season as per NCAA transfer rules. Unfortunately, he broke his foot just before the start of his official sophomore season, sidelining him again.
As a starter for Villanova he helped them win the Big East Title. He decided to transfer to Oregon due to the overcrowded backcourt. Two games into his senior season he broke his foot once again. Ennis applied for special injury status he was able to return for the 2016-17 season. At 6’2, Ennis is built like a running back, bullying his way into the paint. A solid and sure-handed point guard, Ennis is averaging 10 points with a terrific 3/1 assist to turnover ratio.