Homegrown Talent Ready To Make Canadian Hoops History At 2014 Draft

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Less than 24 hours before the 2014 NBA Draft, rumours swirled about potent picks and trades in New York City at the Westin Hotel. With the NBA inviting 20 players to the green room this season, it’s likely that the player the Toronto Raptors will select with the 20th pick was on hand for media availability on Wednesday afternoon.

While it was previously thought that Syracuse point guard — and Canadian — Tyler Ennis wouldn’t be available by the time the Raptors were on the clock, in recent days mock drafts have had him falling to his hometown team. If that were to happen, Ennis wouldn’t be upset with the draft positioning, saying fit is more important than being a high selection.

“Toronto in general I think would be a good fit,” Ennis said. “At the point guard position they have some free agents at that spot but I think most players would want to go home and play in their hometown. I think personally I would love to play in Toronto. We just have to wait and see if that plays out.”

A pure point guard, Ennis was asked the words he would want to hear analysts use when describing his game. Without hesitation, he said he’d want them to say he’s a winner. Playing just one year for the Orange, Ennis wowed with his poise and ability to control the game as well as take over down the stretch when his team needed it. 

Wearing a dress shirt and patterned bow tie, Ennis said he expects to feel nervous when things finally get underway at Barclays Center. Surrounded by reporters eager to hear about three Canadian players primed to be selected in the first round (Ennis, Nik Stauskas and potential first overall pick Andrew Wiggins), he looked at ease discussing the next step of his career.

“I think whenever a Canadian is drafted the whole country kind of bands around him and takes pride in the pick,” Ennis said. “The past couple of years we've had a draft with two, a draft with three but to have seven or eight or whatever it is, is something we've never seen in Canada before.”

Khem Birch, Dwight Powell, Jordan Bachyniski and Melvin Ejim could also be selected on a night that will make history for Canadian basketball.

Stauskas, thought to be a mid-first-round prospect when pre-draft workouts began, is now expected to be a lock for the lottery. Excited to know his dream was so close to unfolding, he was also proud to go through this experience with players he had grown up with.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” Stauskas said. “I always try to represent Canada to my best and always try to let guys know that’s where I’m from. The fact that we have a lot of guys here from Toronto or Canada, it’s awesome. It speaks a lot to the growth the country has right now with basketball and I hope that continues over the next 10, 15 years.”

The Mississauga native said it feels surreal to think that young Canadians could be looking up to him and his fellow draftees in the same way that he looked up to Steve Nash and the Toronto Raptors players — especially Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady — when he was growing up in the city. 

Whoever the Raptors end up selecting, one thing is certain: Canada will be represented well in the NBA Draft. By extension, so will the Raptors franchise that helped to fuel so many Canadian hoop dreams over the past two decades.