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Khem Birch Steals the show at 2011 Mcdonald’s All-American Game

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Yes, we all know the story Canadian Basketball is on the rise. Tristan Thompson, Myck Kabongo, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle Witjer and of course the main event Montreal’s own and Pitt Panthers bound Khem Birch.

The 2011 McDonald’s All-American Game featured a star studded line-up and a record crowd on hand that most major sports owners would envy for.

The finale of the 2011 Burger game recorded its highest attendance in the history of the event with just over 20000 people in the building as the DRose and the Chicago Bulls hit the road and made way for the next generation of NBA stars to shine at the United Center.

Scouts, media, coaches and the hall-of-famers where all on hand to get a early glimpse of the next great one.

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Canadian Basketball was well represented by a record setting three players who took to the hardwood to display their skills.

The game was exciting from the jump as both teams got up and down and scrapped for every possession and loose ball.

In the end the East squad pulled off a 101-96 victory over the West behind North Carolina bound James McAdoo and Kentucky Wildcats Michael Gilchrist 17-points.

The game featured 21 dunks and was the most successful since King James made his appearance and won the 2003 MVP award in his hometown of Cleveland.

Coming into the week a lot of buzz was on the three Canadian Basketball kids who made history.

Myck Kabongo, Kyle Wiltjer and Khem Birch all got their fair share of buzz through the event. All three players participate and faired well on the pre-game activities. Kyle Wiltjer was crowned three-point king despite his 6-10 frame, Myck Kabongo finished a not so distant second in the skills competition, while Khem Birch competed well in the dunk contest.

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The soft spoken and humble Birch promised a strong performance after taking it easy and cruising for much of the week due to an eye injury which occurred during practice.

Montreal native Khem Birch had the most impressive game out of the three Canadian Basketball Players.

Birch a 6-8 freak of nature is considered the top Canadian basketball prospect and sure enough he left many in awe after his near triple double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks in a losing effort.

Birch will most certainly be in consideration for the 2012 NCAA Freshmen of the year award and made a case for Mcdonalds Game MVP with his performance at the biggest stage.

His impact on the court is felt on both ends, his superior athletic ability and raw talent allow him to disrupt shots on the defensive end and cause nightmares for opposing bigs trying to keep him off the offensive glass.

In a game which featured 2011 player of the year Austin Rivers and  co-game-MVP recipients James McAdoo and Michael Gilchrist amongst other studs its worth noting that a Canadian stole the show. All by himself.

“I worked hard to get position and scored without any plays being called for me.” I got everything myself,” Birch said.

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NCAA

Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin commits to Arizona Wildcats

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montreals bennedict mathurin commits to arizona wildcats
Montreal's Bennedict Mathurin selects the Arizona Wildcas

The Arizona Wildcats got a big time commitment from Bennedict Mathurin — Canada’s top guard in the class of 2020.

The 17-year old Mathurin opted to reclassify from the 2021 class — fast tracking his potential NBA eligibility in the process. Standing at 6’6″, 195 pounds, the Montreal native has all the attributes to make an immediate impact at the NCAA division I basketball level — with a NBA ceiling written all-over his resume.

Perhaps not a household commodity, due to his lack of participation in any Canadian FIBA youth sanctioned events — Mathurin was named MVP of the 2019 Canadian National Basketball U17 Championships in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

The Canadian guard/forward led a loaded Quebec team to a perfect 5-0 record — claiming the province’s first U17 title since 2010. Mathurin dominated the entire tournament, including a electric, eye-popping 33 point, 7 assist, 6 rebound performance in the opening game against Team Ontario.

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In the championship game against same Ontario squad, Mathurin was equally impressive — scoring 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the 84-77 victory.

Mathurin is currently showcasing and strutting his growing all-around game in Mexico City as part of NBA Academy Latin America — an elite basketball training center for top male and female prospects across the Caribbean Central and South America.

The Canadian prospect kicked off 2020 and new decade in style with a 30-point, 6 rebounds outburst in a 93-74 win over FC Barcelona U18 team at the Hospitalet tournament.

A lockdown defender with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander like wingspan, Mathurin has the ability to get from the three-point line to the rim with just one dribble. At 6”6′ he’s also able to see over much smaller defenders and is a willing and effective passer that looks to attack at rim can finish with through contact.

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Part of the continuous and overflowing rising crop of future NBA talent from Canada’s second largest city — Mathurin may just be the top guard to come out of Montreal since current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort pledged allegiance to the desert State of Arizona.

montreals ben mathurin nba academy vs champlain st lambert
Montreal’s Ben Mathurin – NBA Academy takes one Champlain St. Lambert

Holding multiple offers from the likes of NCAA basketball programs as Virginia, Alabama, Washington State and Nebraska — Mathurin narrowed his decision to the Arizona Wildcats and Oregon Ducks.

“Those two schools were my finalists because the other schools recruited me a little later, and I said to myself, that if I was going to visit other schools it was going to take a lot more time to get to know the coaching staff and also lots of time to get to know for example who (players) was coming back and leaving.” discussed a well spoken Mauthrin in a live french announcement during half-time of the Toronto Raptors’ and OKC Thunder game.

On what tipped the balance between the two finalist schools, Mauthrin added that the “history of Arizona, the style of play and the fact that every player has a role, and that is my style of play.”

For head coach Sean Miller the commitment of Mauthrin is a significant scoop for a player that was just starting to gain national notoriety and will likely mature into another future Canadian NBA player.

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NCAA

Abu Kigab career night powers Boise State Broncos

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abu kigab career night powers boise state broncos

Canadian Abu Kigab (St. Catherines, Ont.) dropped a career best 33 points, 11 rebounds to power the Boise State Broncos 103-72 past the CSU Northridge Matadors.

The 6’7″, 211-pound junior forward was efficient as a heat pump, knocking down a hot 11-of-16 field-goals, 3-of-4 triples and 8-of-9 free-throws in just 26 minutes — including a two-hand alley-oop — to bring the home crowd to it’s feet while recording his 30th point.

Kigab’s output is one the best performances by a Canadian playing NCAA DI basketball and as per the Broncos’ public relations team “It’s just the 17th 30 & 10 game all-time by a Bronco and seventh in the last 25 years.” Chicago Bulls’ rookie Chandler Hutchison was the last Boise State player to reach the milestone — erupting for 39 points and 14 rebounds at the 2018 NIT.

“We were all making the right play and some nights that’s just how it is,” Kigab said. “I just go out there and try to win the game. I’ll do whatever it takes. Sometimes I might have to score more, sometimes I need to rebound more, sometimes I need to pass more. Whatever my team needs, that’s what I’ll do.”

Highly recruited coming out high school, Kigab was part of the historic Canadian national team that captured the country’s first-ever basketball gold medal at the 2017 U19 World Cup. The hybrid forward averaged a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.6 rebounds — earning a nod in the all-world all-star team alongside MVP RJ Barrett.

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Abu Kigab commits to Oregon Ducks

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The St. Catherine’s product committed to the Oregon Ducks — playing a season and half before opting to transfer to Boise State. Kigab showed promise in his first three games under Dana Altman hitting double-figures scoring in all three non-conference games before completely falling out of the rotation. In 45 games with the Ducks, Kigab scored just a total of 82 points while playing only 418 minutes.

Since becoming eligible and joining the Broncos starting lineup on December 22, Kigab has helped the team to a 3-1 record — including two straight double-doubles and has scored a total of 64 points.

Based on early results it’s fair to say that the change in scenery and shift from the Pac 12 brand of basketball to the Mountain West Conference (MWC) has benefited Kigab’s game.

The Broncos compete in the tough Mountain West Conference with the likes of San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and Nevada. The Conference has a history with Canadians and holds the title of producing former Running Rebel and No. 1 NBA pick Anthony Bennett. The MWC currently features eight Canadians across multiple teams — including Elijah Mitrou-Long (UNLV), Nolan Narain, Sabry Philip and others.

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