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New Mexico State Aggies add two more Toronto players to hoops roster

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New Mexico State has added two more Canadian-born players to its 2010-11 roster.

Christian Kabongo and Renaldo Dixon have verbally committed to play for the Aggies and head coach Marvin Menzies. They join early signee Tshilidze Nephawe in Menzies’ latest recruiting class.

“I have been there several times, it’s a good campus with good facilities,” said Ro Russell, who coached both players for the Toronto based club team Grass Roots Canada Elite. “They are going there for the opportunity and the situation. They had a spot for a combo guard, which CK (Kabongo) will fill. They have good forwards who are about to be seniors, so that way, (Dixon) will be able to step in and play major minutes if he redshirt’. Coach Menzies is a good guy so they will be motivated to play for him.”

Russell said current NMSU sophomore forward Tyrone Watson played for Grass Roots as a younger player. Like Watson, both Kabongo and Dixon were recruited by NMSU assistant Paul Weir, who is also from Toronto.

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Weir’s knowledge of Canadian players has served the Aggies well the past three years, also bringing in point guard Hernst Laroche from Montreal, Quebec. Russell said Menzies met with the players in the last couple of weeks.

“I’ve known Paul for many years,” Russell said. “He recruits Canada very well. We met with Coach Menzies and were told what the needs were in terms of next year and we decided to give is a shot. They have always wanted to go to school together since they
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are best friends and Paul was able to work on a relationship with the kids. Coach Menzies is like a player’s coach so they hit it off pretty quickly.”

Canada is no longer a secret for college coaches, but it is becoming more frequent for players from Toronto to play high school ball in the U.S.

Myck Kabongo, Christian’s cousin, committed early to play at Texas and is currently a junior at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey. Grass Roots teammates Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph were McDonald’s All-Americans and Thompson has committed to Texas.

Christian Kabongo and Dixon played on the Grassroots 16-under team that won the Adidas Super 64 tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

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Russell said Canadian players are eager to prove themselves at the highest level in the U.S.

“They are appreciative and don’t really take it for granted,” Russell said. “With a lack of Division I schools, they want to make good with the opportunity. They want to make a name for themselves and take full advantage of the opportunity once they get it.”

Christian Kabongo had committed to play at East Carolina, but a coaching change in the fall led to him changing his mind.

Russell said Duquesne, Texas Christian and Marshall were also interested in Kabongo through the years.

Kabongo is a 6-foot-4 guard who can play either backcourt position.

“I’ve known CK for 10 or 11 years,” Dixon said. “We grew up in the same neighborhood and were always on the same team. We thought it would be good to play together at the collegiate level too. Lately he has been playing the point guard but he grew up playing the two. He has good court vision and can shoot the 3 from deep.”

The 6-foot-9 Dixon made official visits to Connecticut and Saint Bonaventure and had interest from Marquette, South Florida and Western Kentucky.

Dixon hopes to visit Las Cruces for the first time next week. He will likely redshirt his first year as the Aggies return three quality players in the frontcourt.

“I can focus on school and get a head start on my classes so I will be able to play next year,” Dixon said. “I want to work on ball handling and shooting the most because I want to eventually move out and play the small forward.”

Dixon said Weir has recruited both players for some time, but once East Carolina fell through, they realized they could continue playing together at NMSU.

“We were always trying to go to the same school,” Dixon said. “Once UConn started recruiting me, we didn’t think we would end up at the same school, but now we found one and thought we should take the opportunity and go there.”

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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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