There’s a new wave of rising Canadians basketball players making an early NCAA splash. Below we take a look at freshmen players that are making their mark on the college basketball landscape. Like previous years, look for most of the names on this list to become household names come March Madness and a select few to continue Canada’s NBA takeover.
Oshea Brissett – Syracuse Orange
Brissett has been arguably the best freshman in college basketball. The 6’8″, 210 lbs forward from Mississauga, Ontario is beasting the opposition, averaging 13.6 points per game, including a team-high 9.2 rebounds (55th in all of the nation.) A true special talent, he has already racked-up four double-doubles in his first eight games, missing two more by just a single rebound. Look for Brissett to continue his torrid start to season as he helps the Syracuse Orange make a run at a conference title in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Although early in the season, Brissett is looking more and more like a true one and done prospect. Expect a green room invitation come June 2018 at NBA Draft.
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State Cyclones
Looking for stability at the guard position? Well, look no further than Lindell Wigginton. A true versatile bucket getter, with major hops (38″ vertical), he currently leads all Canadian freshmen in scoring at 16.3 points per game while contributing in other aspects with 4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia product is shooting a healthy 46.3 % from the field, 48.9% from three-pointers and has reached double-figures scoring in 7-of-9 games, including a season best 28-points, 7 rebound performance against Northern Illinois. Although, the tougher part of the Big 12 conference schedule remains, it is clear that in less than ten games Wigginton has solidified himself as a go to option in the fast paced Cyclones offensive system. Expect the 6’2″, 188 lbs guard to flourish all-season long as he looks to fulfill is long time dream of playing in the NBA.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker – Virginia Tech Hokies
Talk about talent. Standing 6’5″ tall, weighing-in at 210-pounds, is Toronto, Ontario freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker. A diamond in the rough find for head coach Buzz Williams and Virgina Tech. The Hokies, traditionally not a prime destination for top Canadian prospects is seeing just how special Alexander-Walker can be early-on. The 19-year-old kicked-off his NCAA career with scoring outbursts against Detroit Mercy (24 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Citadel (29 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and is an integral reason for the Hokies early season success. A knock-down shooter (.529%, FG% .477% 3-pointers) with a 7-footer wing-span Alexander Walker is averaging 14.4 per game, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. A triple-threat, he is comfortable handling the rock as well as, dishing off no looks, as he is scoring.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky Wildcats
It’s hard to talk about Shai-Gilgenous-Alexander (6’6″, 180 lbs, Hamilton/ON) without mentioning the aforementioned Nickeil Alexander-Walker. After-all, both are cousins, their names resemble each other, their games even more. What-else, they played, dominated and caused headaches for coaches as a dynamic high school back-court duo for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, winning a State title along the way. Now they find themselves on the biggest stage of college basketball doing similar things for highly respected basketball teams. Despite coming off the bench Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 28.2 minutes per game, good for second on a team that also features a bevy of NBA prospects, including Hamidou Diallo, P.J Washington. A efficient natural stat-stuffer he’s averaging 10.1 points, a team-high 4.4 assists per game along side 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Marcus Carr – Pittsburgh Panthers
A true floor general, Marcus Carr (6’1″, 185 lbs, Toronto/ON) has taken charge and ignited the Pittsburgh Panthers rebuilding offense. Carr’s strong play has propel the Panthers to a early four-game winning streak. The pass-first guard scored a career-best 23 points in a overtime win over St. Mary’s and has scored in double-digits in the five of the past six Panthers contests. Currently averaging 12 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds, including shooting a 48% from the field, 48.1% from downtown and Steve Nash like 921% from the charity stripe. Despite his size Carr is strong enough to finish through contact and loves to gets under your chin with defensive pressure.
New Wave Canadian Freshmen Making Early NCAA Splash
New Wave Canadian Basketball Freshmen Making NCAA Splash
Canadian Lindell Wigginton Iowa State Cyclones NCAA
Nickeil Alexander Walker Virginia Tech Hookies New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen
Oshea Brissett–Syracuse Orange New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen
Oshea Brissett New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen
Marcus Carr Pittsburg Panthers New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen
Shai Gilgeous Alexander Kentucky Wildcats New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen
Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin commits to Arizona Wildcats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Abu Kigab commits to Oregon Ducks
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.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Canadian Basketball Insider Newsletter