Canada has experienced an unprecedented rise in the numbers of young basketball players who have been recruited to US prep schools, NCAA Division 1 colleges and made it to the NBA and other professional leagues around the globe, but it’s not all about the recent back-to-back number one overall NBA draft picks or the well known elite talent coming up behind them.
Opportunities for young basketball talent in Canada keeps expanding beyond the obvious programs like CIA Bounce in Brampton, Ontario because of the efforts of programs like Ball On My Mind and many other others geared to those talented prospects who might just need a little more exposure and training to elevate their game and get noticed.
At the end of August, Ball On My Mind held a “Hold Your Own Showcase and Create Your Own Mixtape” event for high school age players in Brampton with NC Preps scout Chris Hemphill of Rivals.com there to provide advice and spread the word in the US about some of Canada’s hidden gems. Over 100 high school age basketball players took advantage of the program.
“When you put a good product out there like Ball On My Mind is doing, the kids are going to hear about it and they are going to come,” said CIA Bounce coach Mark Poyser. “Near the end of the summer, kids assess what happened over the summer. Did they accomplish some of their goals? Were they seen? Were they exposed? Did they get what they set out to do? And if that didn’t happen, they are hungry. They are looking for the next thing. Today is August 28th and this gym is packed with a lot of talent (from) right across the GTA (greater Toronto area) and I think it’s (because of) the product.
“Ball On My Mind has some really good coaches from all different programs in Ontario and the skills and the drills they have been doing is going to elevate their games.
“Dalston (Spencer of Ball On My Mind) did the legwork. He was in the gyms. He comes to the high school games. He comes to the exposure camps and he talks to the coaches and he tells them what the intention is. When he told me the intention is he just wants to make sure all kids are taken care of – because the high level kids are going to be taken care of – there is a whole group of middle to low level kids that are being forgotten and they are talented. There is CIS, there’s college, D2, D3, there is low D1, there is a spot for some of these kids and he said he wants to take care of some of those kids.
“When he told me that, I’m like, I coach at CIA Bounce and we take care of the high level kids, but you’re right, not every one is a high level kid so we can’t just let these kids fall off. To add to that, he got Chris Hemphill from Rivals.com to come up and with Rivals.com you got ESPN which ranks the kids in the United States. We want them to see what’s happening in Canada and what he saw, he was thoroughly impressed.
“That’s what this camp is all about, to help everyone including the late bloomers.
The first Ball On My Mind camp was held in August of 2015 with about 60 kids and it was just a one day camp. Then Dalston put on another camp at the East Scarborough Boys and Girls club in January with a similar turnout. This August it was a three day event with 114 players and there was a lot of impressive talent on the court.
“I think everyone knows the candidates who are stars,” Spencer said. “There are other guys that are under the radar or have been overlooked, so when they come to an event like this with less stars, if that’s the right way to say it, it gives you an opportunity to be visible at the event and that’s what we really promote. We know that there are guys that could go Division 1 or Division 2 or Division 3 or play CIS basketball or Canadian college, but sometimes players get buried on the bench on a team that’s just too deep. That doesn’t mean you can’t play basketball, it just means your team has too many options at the moment with guys that can deliver. We want to encourage players to know that you can still play basketball.
“I believe Peel (region) has some of the best talent, but we also want to recognize that there are players that come from regions like Innisfil or Sudbury that might not get as much recognition and coming to this venue, this event, helps a player to carve out his own opportunity, his own name, to get to the next level.
“Even if you can’t make to Division 1, there is a lot of amazing basketball here in Canada and you should really take the opportunity to not just go to that school to play basketball, but Canada has some of the best educational institutions in the world. So you can get a great education and you are at home.”
The number of basketball clubs, teams and programs has been expanding at a rapid pace in Canada and the amount and level of talent is exploding lockstep. The elite talent heading to NCAA Division 1 college and the NBA Draft gets all the attention, but the young basketball talent and opportunities are far deeper. Events like Ball On My Mind’s “Hold Your Own Showcase” are getting even more Canadian kids on the US college radar and promoting the great opportunities to play CIS and college ball in Canada.