To date, only 17 Canadian basketball players have laced up their sneakers to play in the National Basketball Association and one in the old school American Basketball Association. You may recognize some names such as Nash, Magloire, MacCulloch, Wennington and Fox. But others players such as Crevier, Granger, Hansen etc have repped the country in the big league. Here, exclusively from BBM, is the complete up-to-date list of Canadians and their influence on the NBA and Canadian hoops.
It was 35 years ago that Boston Celtics legendary coach and GM Red Auerbach stated that Canadian Bobby Croft “was the top pro prospect in the country (USA).” Big words for a big fellah who ended up being drafted by two professional leagues, the NBA and American Basketball Association (A.B.A.) Croft played only one campaign in the ABA but got the nod to this list due to the fact that the red, white and blue basketball league was on par with the NBA in talent.
Drafted by: Boston Celtics, 1970 NBA, 123rd pick overall, Texas Chaparrals, 1970 ABA, 2nd round
Voted Canada’s top basketball player of the half century 1900-50 Baker was once described by former Harlem Globetrotter founder and manager, the late Abe Saperstein, as “one of the greatest natural basketball players I have ever seen.” High praise indeed for a man who only played a few games in the big leagues (held in check for four games while playing with the Chicago Stags 1946-47 Basketball Association of America – B.A.A.) Was the leading scorer in the short-lived Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League (1946-48) while wearing the colours of the Vancouver Hornets. Norm has participated in world championships, which were open at the time to top college and pro players, and can account for 4 senior titles under his sneakers.
Drafted by: Not Drafted
Right from the ranks of Coquitlam’s Centennial Secondary in British Columbia, Hansen headed south to play at the University of Washington. Due to the ABA dispersal draft, Hansen saw his stock drop with the Chicago Bulls when they landed Artis Gilmore. Hansen did make it to the show as a member of the NBA champion Seattle Supersonics 1978. In 1981, Hansen was named Player of the Year and scoring champion of the FIBA First Division Spanish League.
Drafted by: Chicago, 1976 NBA Draft, 37th pick overall & Los Angeles, 1977 NBA Draft, 151st overall
The Winnipeg Wonder, Todd MacCulloch, made a name for himself at the U of Washington where he led the nation in field goal percentage for three years in a row. Only the second collegian – Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas was the other – to achieve that feat. Retired after only four years in NBA (Philadelphia ‘99-01 and ‘02-03 New Jersey ‘01-02) due to a neurological disorder affecting the peripheral nerves. Participated in the Schick Rookie Challenge during the 2000 All-Star Weekend. Could have had a long career as a top quality journeyman centre.
Drafted by: Philadelphia, 1999 NBA Draft, 47th pick overall
Talk about big shoes. In 1991 Fox became the Boston Celtics first rookie to start on opening night since Larry Bird (1979). Stayed six seasons, including one wearing the “C”, before heading to LA where he wore the Lakers colours for seven seasons. Three championship rings (2000, 2001 and 2002). A versatile 6-7 swingman who could do it all and was always on the edge of stardom. Like several other players on this list – Houbregs, Vandeweghe – Fox moved from Canada at an early age. He left for the Bahamas at the age of two and then back to the USA for high school hoops.
Drafted by: Boston, 1991 NBA Draft, 24th pick overall
Selected by Cleveland, 1983 NBA Draft, 24th pick, Granger played three NBA seasons: Cleveland 1983-84; Atlanta 1984-85 and New York 86-87. He was also a first team U.S.B.L. All-Star in 1986 while a member of the Wildwood Aces. Granger made the New York State high school finals in 1979 playing for NYC-Nazareth. Fellow Montreal native Bill Wennington, also made the New York State high school finals. Wennington in 1981 with Brookville-L.I. Lutheran.
Drafted by: Cleveland, 1983 NBA Draft, 24th pick overall
Call him what you want. Kid Canada or Hair Canada…Steve Nash simply said, is the best basketball player, perhaps even athlete, to date to come from Canada. Standing 6-foot-3, giving an inch or two, Nash was last year’s MVP. No controversy here. His overall efficiency ratings rank him as one of the best ever! Made a name and game for himself while with the Dallas Mavericks. Now look for him to lead the Phoenix Suns to an NBA title. He is the sponsor of the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League in British Columbia that has grown to over 10,000 participants.
Drafted by: Phoenix, 1996 NBA Draft, 15th pick overall
Give it to him that he spent 10 years on our National Team and that he is a member of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, but Rautins never really had the chance to live up to his press clippings. The youngest player ever to put on national colours (at age 16) he would leave Saint Michael’s in Toronto to later make a name for himself at Syracuse University. Plagued by bad knees – 14 operations – his pro career consisted of two uninspired seasons in the NBA and an eight-year stint in Europe. Also suited up in the C.B.A. (1989-91) for LaCrosse and Sioux Falls. Younger kids got to know his name through his NBA television work and now he guides our national program.
Drafted by: Philadelphia, 1983 NBA Draft, 17th pick overall
From an average high school player – Port Robinson’s Eastdale Secondary – Smrek blossomed into a NCAA All-American Honourable Mention while at Canisius College. He then placed two NBA title rings (1987 and 1988 Los Angeles Lakers) on his fingers. Smrek is a true blue Canadian hoop legend who represented our country on the international level for several years. Carved out a nice NBA career.
Drafted by: Portland, 1985 NBA Draft, 25th pick overall
If there is one Canadian who deserved to have a NBA championship ring it’s Bill Wennington. A member of the 1984 and 1992 Canadian Olympic teams he was part of the Air Jordan dynasty with da Bulls in the 1996, 1997 and 1998. A solid 13-year NBA career. Never averaged more than 7.1 ppg but earned his paycheque every night.
Drafted by: Dallas, 1985 NBA Draft, 16th pick overall
Showcasing his talents for the Eastern Commerce Saints, this Toronto product was a hot recruit and landed a college gig in U of Kentucky where he is the Wildcats all time leader in blocked shots (268). Has an NCAA championship ring (1998) to go along with his appearance in the NBA All-Star Game (2004), where he proved with 19 points and eight rebounds in only 21 minutes of action that he should be a starter for many more seasons.
Drafted by: Charlotte, 2000 NBA Draft, 19th pick overall
A name unknown to most Canadian sports fans. Yet, Biasatti has the rare distinction to have been the only Canadian to date to play at the major league level in basketball and baseball (Philadelphia Athletics 1949). Had a sip of coffee with the Toronto Huskies (1946-47 B.A.A.) – along with fellow Canuck Gino Sovran. Perhaps the most memorable hoops moment for Biasatti was in 1945 when his college team – Assumption – earned a 49-45 decision over the one and only Harlem Globetrotters.
Drafted by: Boston Celtics, 1947 BAA Draft
A lacklustre three-year career at Boston College (1980-83) was followed by a lacklustre three games in the NBA (1985-86). The lanky 7-footer totalled four minutes. Pro highlight was his third place ranking in the blocked shots category, 1.6 per game, while playing for the 1986 United States Basketball League’s (U.S.B.L.) Springfield Flame. Also played with Jim Zoet on the 1983 edition of the Toronto Tornadoes of the Continental Basketball Association (C.B.A.).
Drafted by: Chicago, 1983 NBA Draft, 75th pick overall
Made the move north of the 49th parallel from Bishop Laughlin in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1960s to showcase his talents as a guard with the Acadia Axemen. Once scored 74 points in a single game (Acadia vs. Mount Allison, 1967-68). Star player in the Eastern Basketball Association.
Drafted by: Baltimore, 1969 NBA Draft, 215th pick overall
Joins Hank Biasatti as one of two Canucks to hit the hardwood for the Toronto Huskies (1946-47). Top college player reaching the 1,000 point plateau for U of Windsor. Also played at University of Detroit Mercy. 2002 Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
Drafted by: Not Drafted
Nicknamed Doc, Vandeweghe may be better known as father of shooting forward Kiki Vandeweghe (racked up nearly 16,000 NBA regular season points 1980-1993). Born in Montreal, left as a kid. Played his high school ball at Oceanside, NY and then Colgate University. One of the top shooters during his short NBA career.
Drafted by: New York, 1949 BAA Draft, 29th overall
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (1987) played five NBA seasons – 1953-58 – Milwaukee Hawks, Baltimore Bullets, Boston Celtics, Fort Wayne Pistons and Detroit Pistons. Drafted by Milwaukee – 1953 NBA first round pick. First Canadian-born as such…not Leo Rautins as usually stated. NCAA Player of the Year (1953). Would rank behind, or even slightly ahead, of Steve Nash as the Greatest Canuck ever but really has no Maple Leaf connections, living in our country only during his tyke years before dribbling south.
Drafted by: Milwaukee, 1953 NBA Draft, 3rd pick overall
A member of the 1980 Canadian Olympic team (also National Team member 1977-80 and 1990) Zoet played only seven games with the Detroit Pistons (1982-83) but went on to globetrot his talents professionally in Holland, England, Argentina, Mexico and the Philippines. Jim nearly made it to the big show by surviving the last two cuts of the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp in 1982. Split his college career with time in the USA (Kent State University) and Canada (Lakehead University)
Drafted by: Not Drafted
Additional Canadians drafted by NBA teams:
Milwaukee, 1981 NBA Draft, 181st
Detroit, 1982 NBA Draft, 214th
Detroit, 1975 NBA Draft, 169th
Portland, 1979 NBA Draft, 56th
Utah, 1983 NBA Draft, 146th
Chicago, 1985 NBA Draft, 125th
Portland, 1980 NBA Draft, 125th
Washington, 1986 Draft, 82nd
Indiana, 1994 NBA Draft, 41st
Seattle, 1984 NBA Draft, 106th
Buffalo, 1975 NBA Draft, 158th
New York, 1983 NBA Draft 128th pick
St. Louis Hawks, 1964 NBA Draft Rd 13
St. Louis Hawks, 1964 NBA Draft Rd 12
Denver, 1984 NBA Draft, 79th
Buffalo 1973 NBA Draft 211th
LA Lakers, 1981 NBA Draft, 179th
Chicago, 1984 NBA Draft, 43rd