Meet the next generation of Canadian basketball stars

When R.J. Barrett announced he would be attending Duke University he made headlines across North America. Dan Shulman profiles the second generation star.

On Sunday, Brooke Henderson took one step closer to making history. The 20-year-old phenom from Smiths Falls, Ont., became the first Canadian in 45 years to win the CP Women’s Championship — her seventh LPGA title — and is now just one tournament win away from tying Sandra Post’s national record for tour wins by a Canadian.

It’s a stunning feat that cements Henderson’s status as one of Canada’s best young athletes. It’s an impressive list that spans multiple sports, featuring the likes of tennis stars Denis Shapovalov and fast-riser Felix Auger-Aliassime (the two face one another on Monday evening in the first round of the U.S. Open), 17-year-old soccer star Alphonso Davies, 18-year-old gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak, and a host of others.

When looking at the top up-and-coming Canadian athletes, basketball is front and centre. We all know about R.J. Barrett, who just toured the country with his Duke Blue Devils prior to his freshman NCAA season, and while he may top the list, Barrett’s just one of several promising young Canadian ballers poised to make a name for themselves in the sport.

Here’s a closer look at the names you’ll want to remember:

R.J. Barrett

Just because he’s already gained fame and notoriety here in Canada, doesn’t mean we should skip past him on this list.

To put it plainly, he’s the most accomplished and most promising hoops prospect this country has produced to date. Barrett’s combination of poise and potential currently have him ranked as the No. 1 NBA prospect heading toward the 2019 draft, and it will take a lot for him to lose his grasp on that spot.

He’s aggressive but mature on the court, and his skill-set and arsenal of shots are already light years ahead of most 18-year-olds.

More than Andrew Wiggins, Dillon Brooks, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk or the host of other Canadians making noise in the pros, Barrett will be tasked with helping to lead Canada to new heights in international hoops.

Kia Nurse

Like Barrett, Nurse has already accomplished a ton, including a Pan Am gold medal and a two-time NCAA champion with UConn. She was drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft and, fresh off a promising rookie campaign with the New York Liberty, will be a mainstay at the next level.

Nurse stood out in her first pro season, establishing herself as not only the killer shooter we knew her to be from her previous stops, but also a potentially elite-level defender and two-way threat.

For more on Nurse and her pursuit of global basketball domination on behalf of Canada, look no further than Kristina Rutherford’s Big Read profile.

Andrew Nembhard

Considered one of the top incoming NCAA guards, Nembhard is one of Florida’s prized recruits for the upcoming 2018-19 collegiate season. He’s 28th in ESPN’s class of 2018 rankings and turned down offers from schools like UConn, Virginia, Gonzaga and Ohio State before choosing to be a Gator.

Like Barrett and Nurse, Nembhard has shone playing for his country in the past, including this past summer while leading Canada in FIBA qualifying action.

Simi Shittu

A physically imposing forward, Shittu has been on NCAA and NBA radars for years. The Burlington, Ont., native is a five-star recruit and ESPN’s 19th-ranked prospect, the top-ranked power forward on their list. He committed to Vanderbilt — a huge coup for the program — but suffered an ACL tear back in January and is expected to resume basketball activities by November. The folks over at North Pole Hoops have long had Shittu behind Barrett as the second-ranked prospect of the Class of ’18.

Shaina Pellington

The reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Pickering, Ont., native Pellington is one of Oklahoma’s top guards and finished second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game — the 10th highest in Sooner freshman history.

She figures to be a major part of the upcoming Oklahoma team looking to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2019.

AJ Lawson

The top-ranked Canadian in the Class of 2019 before he reclassified to enter the collegiate ranks this season, Lawson is a versatile point guard who has committed to South Carolina to play under coach Frank Martin. At six-foot-seven, Lawson’s height presents a ton of matchup problems and he has a knack for coming up big in the clutch.

Luguentz Dort

He may not get the same amount of attention as Barrett, Nembhard and Shittu, but the Montreal native and star shooting guard at the Athlete Institute in Orangeville, Ont., is not one to sleep on. After receiving offers from Michigan State, Oregon and Indiana, Dort decided to attend Arizona State in the fall.

Dort stole the show at the BioSteel All-Canadian game earlier this summer, and has been called Arizona State’s most notable signing since James Harden. With his level of explosive athleticism, it’s not hard to see why.

Quincy Guerrier

Plying his trade at Quebec’s Thetford Academy, Guerrier overtook Lawson as Canada’s No. 1-ranked prospect in the Class of 2019 and is being recruited by many of the top NCAA programs. A six-foot-seven shooting guard, Guerrier has all the tools scouts would want in a two-guard, including strong finishing ability at the rim and a dangerous jump shot.

Ignas Brazdeikis

Committed to Michigan for the upcoming NCAA season, the six-foot-seven small forward out of Oakville, Ont., is another product of Athlete Institute and Orangeville Prep, where he starred alongside Dort.

Brazdeikis (aka “Iggy”) gets buckets in any number of ways and is coming off his second straight season, being named Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) MVP, averaging 32.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals in league play this past year.

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