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Jamie Vanderbeken: Holdin’ down the paint



Approximately 190 kilometres east of Toronto, along Highway 401, is the small town of Belleville. Though not exactly known for its sporting heroes, it is the place where hockey legend Bobby Hull spent his formative years. But that was a long time ago. In 2005, there is a new buzz in Belleville’s sports world. This time it’s on the hardwood, not the ice. Basketball phenom Jamie Vanderbeken is the guy in the spotlight as one of Canada’s top young ballerz with no shortage of attention from the best NCAA Division One contenders. From the Big 10 to PAC-10, the line is forming to secure the college years of the big 18-year-old.

They’ll have to wait on him though. The 6-10, 235-pound centre has opted to put off higher education for one more year. Instead, he will continue to hold down the centre position for his high school, Quinte Secondary School (QSS). “I just wasn’t really ready to leave home yet,” Vanderbeken says about forgoing the jump to the U.S. “It’s a big decision having to find a school and leaving for pretty much four years. It’s a bit different from going up the road to the University of Ottawa or a place in Toronto.” He is being patient, and with his talent, he can afford to be. Estimating his fielded interest from more than 50 American schools; he says he is still waiting for the ideal situation.

“It takes a while to go through all the schools to see what they have to offer, where my role would be on the team.” But he doesn’t expect to be an impact or dominant player in his first season of college ball no matter where he ends up. “First-year college, I’m not looking for a starting role,” he says. “I’m not looking for 30 minutes a game, I just want to contribute.”

Vanderbeken doesn’t want his courtship to drag into his fall season and be a distraction at QSS. He says he’s looking to sign a letter of intent during the early-signing period in mid-November but will do so only if he’s comfortable. If he hasn’t identified the situation he desires by then his next chance to commit will be the April 12 to May 17 late-signing period.

In prepping himself for his last season before post-secondary ball, he continues the dedication and desire that put him where he currently is. “I just get in the gym and weight room as much as I can,” he says. “If you’re not on the court, you’re not going to improve so I try to get as much court time as possible.” His coach, Jim Fleming, can testify to the hard work that Vanderbeken has shown time and time again. “I’ve had to go work out (at the school) at six in the morning and Jamie has been in there regularly, and even when there are times I don’t feel like coming in, Jamie’s bugging me to come in,” Fleming confirms. “He always wants in the gym.”

The towering big man is working on more than his back-down moves. In fact, he is far from what you might expect of a player his size. A lot of his game resembles a smaller player with his soft hands and shooting touch. “For being a big guy, everyone thinks you should be in the post banging and all that, but I think what sets me out from the rest is the ability to shoot and dribble,” Vanderbeken explains about his playing style. “I like to think of myself as a fairly good shooter, I can step out and hit the three. I think that’s my best attribute right now being able to mix it up a little, go inside, go outside, a little bit of everything.”

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Vanderbeken has the determination of a perfectionist. He is never satisfied with a performance he deems less than his level. You’d think a guy averaging 25 points, over 12 boards, 5 blocks and 5 assists over his last campaign would have little to worry about. However, he gets down on himself when not ballin’ his best and demands better. “Jamie’s tough on himself,” Fleming says. “Sometimes I have to call a timeout and bring him off and settle him down.”

Last season Quinte Secondary School finished with a solid 26-8 record but lost their two games at provincials. Fleming says he hopes the team can win the Bay of Quinte, though he admits it will be tough with Nicholson Catholic College in their league. Nicholson won provincials at the “AA” level last year and poses a threat. If QSS can get by them, they might achieve their coach’s goals of winning KASSAA (Kingston Area Secondary School Athletic Association), and having a good showing at the provincial championships.

The coach’s expectations for his star player are equally high. “I’m expecting him to step up as a leader,” Fleming says. “Stat-wise, I’m expecting him to average right around 30 points, at least 10 boards and probably 10 blocks, a triple-double.” In July, Vanderbeken participated among the 126 players at the Nike All-American camp in Indianapolis for the high school elite. In his opinion, the game down there is a lot more competitive, physical, faster and the athletes are better than those in Canada.

“I like to think of myself as a fairly good shooter, I can step out and hit the three. I think that’s my best attribute right now being able to mix it up a little, go inside, go outside, a little bit of everything.”

“It was hard sometimes, showing myself, because I didn’t touch the ball as much as I’d like,” he says. “I just have to keep doing what I do, pass the ball, rebound and run. All the schools recruiting me already know that I can score so it wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to score all the time down there, but just to show my all-around game and everything else I can do.

He was the top centre at the Nike All-Canada camp, which provided less intense competition, allowing him a better chance to assert himself and his skills to garner all the attention. “I felt I did pretty well,” he says. “I scored points, got rebounds, assists; I ran the floor, just played my game.” Though his skills rank well with Canada’s top prospects, and a couple of Canadian universities have contacted him, he says his “dream’s always been to play down south, so if I have the opportunity, why not take it?”

It’s the path taken by current NBA stars Jamaal Magloire and reigning MVP Steve Nash, and could prove to be the right way for the young man from Belleville. It may be a long time from now, but it’s never too early to think about it. “I think the sky’s the limit,” Fleming says. “There’s no doubt in my mind he can play at the (Division One) level. To take it to the next level (NBA) depends on how much Jamie wants it.”
“Of course that’s every aspiring basketball player’s goal to make the NBA,” Vanderbeken says. “How reasonable that is I don’t know. But if I go with the right program, and I have the right development, it could happen someday.”

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Canada’s Finest: Lindell Wigginton



Canada’s Finest: Lindell Wigginton

2017 Canadian Guard Lindell Wiggington from Nova Scotia is Canada’s next rising star.

Balling out of the famous Oak Hill Academy academy program that is synonymous with NBA development, Wigginton has been on tear solidify his name and game.

Wiggington a 6’1, 180lbs point guard has committed to the Iowa State Cyclones commit and is the first Canadian Basketball player to attend Oakhill academy.


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Cliche put to rest – Canada’s Orangeville Prep develop two lottery NBA players



Basketball… So many thoughts come to one’s mind after hearing that noun. The game has made us judge, argue, hate and even fight. Yet we still love this game and wouldn’t change it for the world. Yes there are cons, but the pros outweighs the cons by far. The game of basketball has turned nightmares to fairytales for many! It has helped people put racial tension aside, it’s brought life and hope to millions of families and overall it has impacted the world in a fascinating fashion. Since its existence in 1891 it seems as though the game has never seized to keep growing. From a sport that was just known in North America for most of the 20th century, Basketball is now ranked as the third most popular sport in the world trailing only cricket and soccer.


1992 USA Gold Medal Olympic Team – The “Dream Team”

The number of youth playing basketball worldwide has seen some record breaking numbers the past few decades; it’s fair to say that most of these kids have one common dream – to play in the most popular basketball league in the world the ‘National Basketball Association’. Many may ask when did making it to the NBA become such a world-wide dream? It happened in the summer of 1992, the first year that the Olympic committee allowed active NBA players to part-take in the America basketball team.

This team would go on to be known as the ‘Dream Team’ and to many sports writers the greatest team in all of sports. The Dream Team featured NBA legends such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and many other NBA greats. They won by an average of 44 points. But their greatest accomplishment was not destroying teams and winning the gold. It was showcasing the essence of pure basketball talent and the NBA. Making it the first time for practically all international countries to see what the NBA was and is all about. Many great international players such as Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and many others credit the Dream Team for allowing the NBA to become more international.

Today the NBA has over 80 international players from over 40 countries. This has made in sort for more and more high schools and prep schools around the world to construct great basketball programs for their schools. Leaving plenty high schoolers with the dream of making it to make the NBA. Despite high school student’s 0.3% chances of fulfilling their childhood basketball dreams High schools and prep schools have still done a phenomenal job in building amazing basketball programs world-wide. When people think of great high school and prep school basketball programs there are few teams that come to mind right away. Such as Oak Hill Academy who’s produced 27 NBA players, DeWitt Clinton who produced 19 NBA players, Dematha Catholic who’s produced 14, Laurinburg Institute 12. The list goes on but these four notable high schools and prep schools have developed the most NBA players. That is not to say that there aren’t many other great basketball programs. However, there has been a cliché amongst the youth that only schools in America can develop NBA players.

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That cliché was recently put to rest after two players who came out of Canada’s Orangeville Prep got selected in the 2016 NBA Draft! Kitchener, Ontario’s own Jamal Murray who was picked at #7 by the Denver Nuggets and Sudanese/Australian and adopted Canadian Thon Makur who was picked at #10 by the Milwaukee Bucks. Orangeville District Secondary School’s mission is “to provide exceptional educational opportunities as well as state of the art basketball facility and development for high school student athletes looking to make their passion for basketball a reality at the next level.” They’ve done a tremendous job of that and should be proud.

BasketballBuzz took the time to interview both Murray and Makur head coach at Orangeville Prep Larry Blunt who recently coached the Oshawa Power in the NBL Canada and who coached at the NCAA level for eight years.


Orangeville Prep Head Coach Larry Blunt

BB: Coach can you tell us your thoughts on seeing two of your old boys Murray & Makur get drafted to the NBA?

LB: I think it’s exciting when you get an opportunity to see things work out for the boys. This gives us the opportunity to hopefully replicate it

BB : You seen the two come in as boys and transformed into men, how has that process been like?

LB: That process has been great. I think we can see it especially with Thon in the way he transformed his body. And with both of them you can see great transition they made emotionally and every other part of their game.

BB: How have you managed to keep your team so relevant with all the powerhouse teams you guys play in the states?

LB: Our guys play with a chip on their shoulders. Knowing that they need to go get the respect from their peers. We’ve been getting great feedbacks especially the last two years with Makur & Murray success. We touched success at not only the NBA but also the division 1 level which has been great.

BB : What has been the toughest challenge for your boys?

LB: Everything has been tough. Nothing is given here, I think the getting to practice at 3 or 4 then having to go to class has prepared them well. No favour is giving, kids have to fight, they do not have it easy and had to work for everything they had.


Thon Maker & Jamal Murray – Orangeville Prep

BB: What can we expect from Murray and Makur in the NBA?

LB: I think both of their game will translate well into the NBA. Especially with the new NBA, Thon can take advantage of the space with his shots. Especially with the new rule to get your hands off guys. Jamal Murray is a traditional point guard. I don’t think the world seen Jamal Murray in the global games and Nike tournaments where he ran a team. I think that is a skill set that the world will see. They also both possess a great work ethic.

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Ashitei Twins Loyalty Towards Ottawa Phoenix Basketball Club



With so many sponsorship deals, kids not having patience and friends wanting to stick together; the word Loyalty has become a lost art in today’s basketball world. It’s fair to say that there are very few programs nowadays that are lucky to have the chance of developing players from their first year of eligibility right through their last. It has become quite common for players to bounce around teams until they encounter one that meets all their immediate necessities. Nevertheless, like in most situations in life there will be some exceptions; and have people that will go against the norm, like many who have had the opportunity of playing for the Ottawa Phoenix basketball club.Quinton-Ashitei-Ottawa-Phoenix

Phoenix basketball program began in 1997 with the goal of providing for local youths from the area who wanted an opportunity to play basketball after the high school season was over. For about two years coaches Andy Waterman and Adrienne Coddett brainstormed on what shape and direction they thought would be best for the program. After the anticipating two years they came to the conclusion/ creation of the Ottawa Phoenix basketball club. From the very beginning Phoenix basketball goal was to provide young men with an opportunity to excel in their classroom and in the athletic arena. Decades later the organization continues to assist young basketball players on their voyage of discovery.

The club has done a phenomenal job of making players stick around throughout the years and now is recognized as one of the best basketball clubs in the city of Ottawa. They’ve helped develop star powers such as Garry Gallimore, Ishmael Kaba, Johnny Berhanemeskel, Jahenns Manigat and many more! They’ve had such an influence on players that guys like Jahenns Manigat who’s played four years for Division one basketball with Creighton Blue Jays and now for a pro team in Romania; has been going to the facility practically everyday to mentor the kids and tell them what it’s like to play college ball and professionally.

Two very special individuals who have followed the footsteps of other former Phoenix Alumni’s and demonstrated throughout their years with the program the definition of patience, hard work and loyalty. Soon to-be alumni’s of Phoenix basketball are the Ashitei twins, Shandon and Quintin. The twins have been great role-models for the younger generation of basketball players in Ottawa. They’ve not only stuck with Phoenix from beginning to end but they did it with class and are both leaving with tremendous amount of skills and character that will certainly benefit them in their next step as they prepare for University.

Their journey began in the summer of 2012. The twins grandpa woke them up one day and told them that he signed them up for this camp. The first thought was that they would attend the basketball camp for a week. It was the supposed to be the usual “fill a week of the summer” for the kids routine. At the end of camp, there were lots of hugs and thank you’s for a fun week of camp, and see you never goodbye’s.
The very next week of camp, the first two campers in the gym were Shandon and Quintin Ashitei!  The (Twins) have been with Phoenix every since. Shandon and Quintin are now members of an elite group of Phoenix players who have competed in more than 150 games. The great accomplishment is a testament to Shandon and Quintin their loyalty and trust in our Ottawa Phoenix organization. Over their years, Shandon and Quintin have been approached about playing in other organizations. To their credit, they have stayed loyal to the program, and to our belief that ‘tradition never graduates.” Shandon and Quintin have now become veteran leaders and role models to our younger players and summer campers and have been classic examples of the fact that “you don’t change the message, the message changes you.”

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Coming into high school the Ashitei twins we’re heavily underrated. After both getting cut from their local OBA team they’ve played with a chip on their shoulder ever since. When the first Phoenix AAU travel team was made the Ashiteti twins we’re finally selected, participating in their first club team. They both stated that “It was tough!” so tough, that in fact most people quit the team that year. And now, the twins are the only two remaining players on Phoenix that started back in 2012. Despite the tough years they’ve managed to stick through it and now have surpassed many of the players that we’re ranked above them as they entered high school. Now the twins will be bringing the hard earned loyalty to the university level. Their recruiting process has been quite interesting as they come as a package deal. They’ve both stated that whatever school wants one brother has to take the other as well. They’ve gotten over five university offers have kept their grades up all their high school career. They came to the program as young boys and are leaving as young men!

In the end the twins decided to attend Nipissing Lakers where they’ve received the Schulich Scholarship from Nipissing University! The Schulich is an academic scholarship based on their top four grade 12 marks and their commitment to community volunteer work.

Their coach Andy Waterman stated:

“It has been a pleasure to be able to work closely with Shandon, Quintin and their family. We have also been fortunate to be involved in so many aspects of the boys lives, from birthdays, international tours, huge tournament wins to endless hours traveling the highways and byways and Eastern Canada and the United States. The (Twins) have now carved out their own identities in the long Phoenix storyline. Along the way they have become Shandon and Q. They have helped usher in the next phase of Phoenix ball.  I look forward to the next episode for Shandon and Q.” Concluded coach Waterman.

“The future is so bright, you gotta wear shades”

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