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Alexander-Walker propels Hokies’ to 2nd-round first time in 12 years

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Nickeil Alexander-Walker propels Hokies’ to 2nd-round first time in 12 years

For the first-time in twelve-years, the Virginia Tech Hokies’ are marching on to the second round of the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

Canadian guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a sophomore guard from Toronto, Ontario was impressive in his second NCAA tournament game — finishing with a game-high 20 points to lead Hokies to a 66-52 win over the No. 13 Saint Louis Billikens.

Saint Louis had no answer for Alexander-Walker who continues to deliver for Buzz Williams, pulling down 6 rebounds and adding three steals on 8-of-13 shooting.

Virginia Tech last reached the second round of the tournament as a fifth seed in 2007 when it beat No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini before being taken down by No. 4 Southern Illinois.

Since Alexander-Walker’s arrival, the Hokies have improved tremendously — reaching the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament for the third straight year — a first in the program’s history.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker no look pass propels Hokies’ to 2nd-round first time in 12 years
Nickeil Alexander-Walker drops a tasty no-look pass against Saint Louis Billikens

Like many freshmen during their first dance, Alexander-Walker’s 15-point, 3-assist, 2 rebound effort wasn’t quite good enough to earn an invite to a second date as the Hokies couldn’t quite get over the hump — falling 86-83 to a talented Alabama Crimson Tide squad in the first round of the classic eight-nine match-up.

No. 4 Virginia Tech (ACC) will look to cool off the Flames of No. 12 seed Liberty — the Atlantic Sun Conference champions, in the round of 32.

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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.

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

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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