UpNext: From unknown ‘Heslop’ to sharpshooting star

Baylor guard Brady Heslip is the newest member of the NCAA's 1,000-points club. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

UpNext brings you the best up-and-coming Canadian basketball talent. In this week’s installment, sharpshooting Baylor guard Brady Heslip.

So often, we respect an accomplishment without properly understanding and crediting the work that went into achieving it. Luckily, I can show you at least some of what went into making Brady Heslip the most recent member of the NCAA’s 1,000-point club.

Back in June of 2008, I covered the All Canada Classic, the only national high school all-star game in the country. Organized by Wayne Dawkins, it featured future NBAers Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk and a handful of other players that were on their way to the NCAA, among them Junior Cadougan.

In any showcase event there are always a few players that are there simply to fill out the rosters. At first glance, I figured that Heslip was one of them. I was wrong.

The soon-to-be 18-year-old put on a shooting clinic, dropping 25 points and capturing co-MVP honors along with Cadougan. It was the last time I would ever underestimate him.

Heslip was such an unknown at the All Canada Classic, that the official score sheet had him down as “Brady Heslop.”

At that time, Heslip was expected to go to the University of Guelph to follow in his father’s C.I.S. footsteps. But a summer tour with Ro Russell’s AAU team, Grassroots Canada, garnered him some D-1 attention. Soon, Heslip was on his way to Boston College.

Heslip didn’t end up playing a single game for the Eagles—the fit just wasn’t right—but Boston College was a foot in the NCAA door. His transfer to Baylor that same season would prove to be as important as his initial decision to follow his college basketball dreams south of the border.

Transfer rules forced Heslip to sit out his freshman season in Waco, Texas, but it wasn’t time wasted. Instead, he used that year to completely change his body.

Baylor’s weight training program turned Heslip into a lean sharpshooter; a perfect fit on a Bears team that featured explosive forwards Quincy Acy, Perry Jones and Quincy Miller. In 2012, the Bears made it to the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual-champion Kentucky Wildcats. During that tournament run, Heslip became an overnight sensation when he poured in a career-high 27 points, including nine three-point field goals, in Baylor’s third-round win over Colorado.

From a high school all-star game in Toronto to trending on Twitter across North America in just four years. It was a dream scenario for the Burlington native, something he described in his first UpNext profile in February of 2012.

After starting 73 games over two seasons at Baylor and playing a key role for Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team this past summer, Heslip returned to campus for his senior campaign to find himself out of the Bear’s starting five.

Having already lost two collegiate seasons—one to the transfer and another as a red shirt in 2011-12—Heslip was staring at the possibility of another ‘lost’ season coming off the bench. That may not have been the worst thing in the world had the Bears been winning. Instead, Baylor started the 2014 calendar year 3-7, before head coach Scott Drew decided to slot his long-range threat back into the starting lineup. In just his second game back, Heslip went 8-of-12 from downtown for a season-high 25 points, and while he struggled with his shot over the next few games, he still helped Baylor win four of their next five contests to get back into tournament contention.

How Heslip’s NCAA career will end remains to be seen. But the fact that he even played D-1 ball, let alone notched 1,000 career points, attests to the distance hard work and a never-say-die attitude can carry you.

Barely scouted out of high school, no floor time his freshmen year, yanked out of the starting lineup before his senior season, labeled as one dimensional; Brady has overcome it all thanks to the advice of his inner circle—including his uncle, Blazers assistant coach Jay Triano—and an unwavering belief in his game.

He is shooting 47 percent from three-point range this season (43 percent for his career), and with a wealth of international experience under his belt, he should be able to find himself a professional home somewhere overseas.

Because, as we all know, every basketball team can use a lights-out shooter.

Heslip hits a three pointer with the lights out at Baylor’s Ferrell Center. It took him just two attempts and he acted like he had done it before—a true pro.

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