Mackenzie pointed to statistics showing that over the past four years, basketball was growing faster than soccer and hockey in terms of participation and said Canadians have embraced digital platforms providing nearly non-stop NBA action.
“When you layer on top of that the macro factors of immigration, we think immigration has been a big part of the growth of the sport here,” the NBA executive said. “We think a lot of that is due to people coming to Canada from countries where basketball is very popular. For our country, the two largest sub-groups of newcomers to Canada are folks from the Philippines and from China. Those are two countries where basketball is very popular.”
He said the general hoops interest in Canada, combined with “the individual passion, talent and desire of these kids that are starting to excel, it really makes for a great movement. When you look at the pipeline of talent coming through, if you look at the NCAA pipeline, high schools in Canada and/or in prep schools in the US, the Canadians are coming.”
One of the most eagerly anticipated Canadian players, Andrew Wiggins, will be hitting the major US college basketball scene next season as a freshman at Kansas, where Naismith went on to coach basketball at the turn of the 20th century.
Even Bennett is excited by what Wiggins, who has been dubbed the “Maple Jordan,” could accomplish.
“He’s just real dominant, can take over games any time he wants,” Bennett said. “He’s athletic, he can shoot. I feel like in the next draft coming up, he can go No. 1, too, and make history again. Two Canadian players going number one, back-to-back. That would be something else.”