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2010 AAU Spotlight: Grassroots Canada
By: Barry Hayes
Myck Kabongo
Myck Kabongo

The NCAA’s Evaluation Period is underway. Canadian AAU players have hit the road or flied the friendly skies for tournaments and identification camps. They will bounce around different US cities, play in front of numerous scouts, and have memories that can last a lifetime.

Grassroots Canada has had a lasting effect on the AAU scene in recent years. You would be hard-pressed to find many Division 1 coaching staffs that don’t recognize the name “Grassroots Canada” or at least one of their recent players. While the superstars from last year’s 17-and-Under powerhouse have moved on, there is still plenty of talent coming up the ranks. Now finished his first year as head coach and assistant athletic director at Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmoor, NC), Grassroots’ Director Ro Russell and his staff have pieced together strong talent across five age groups. We begin our 2010 AAU Spotlights with Toronto’s Grassroots Canada.

Name: Grassroots Canada
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Team website: www.grassrootscanadabasketball.com

Last year’s 17U Team whereabouts this Fall:

Tristan Thompson 6’9” PF - Texas (NCAA D1)
Cory Joseph 6’2” CG - Texas (NCAA D1)
Myck Kabongo 6’2” PG - Senior at Findlay Prep (committed to Texas)
Dwight Powell 6’10” PF - Stanford (NCAA D1)
Brady Heslip 6’1” PG - Baylor (NCAA D1)
Jean-Paul Kambola 6’10” C - Marshall (NCAA D1)
Josh Biber 6’6” SF - Brown (NCAA D1)
Renaldo Dixon 6’8” C - New Mexico State (NCAA D1)
Shamar Bennett 6’3” SG - Returns to Prep school
Junior McLeod 6’7” PF - Odessa Junior College (NJCAA D1)

17U (Wells Davis)
16U (Delroy Williams)
15U (Anthony Otto)
14U (Terence Phillips, Donovan Gordon)
13U (Karim Grant)
Director: Ro Russell

2010 Summer Schedule
June 25-27 (Philly Phenom Invitational in West Chester, Pennsylvania) – 14U, 15U, 17U
July 6-7 (Junior National Invitational in Springfield, Massachusetts) – 13U, 14U
July 9-12 (Basketbull’s First Eight in Springfield, Massachusetts) – 15U, 16U, 17U
July 13-15 (Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis, Minnesota) – 17U
July 21-26 (Fab 48 in Las Vegas, Nevada) – 16U, 17U
July 21-26 (Adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas, Nevada) – 14U, 15U
July 29  (Nike Flight Games in Toronto, Ontario)

17U Team Roster 2010
Myck Kabongo 6’2” PG (Toronto, ON) – Class of 2011
Kevin Thomas 6’8” CF (Ajax, ON) – Class of 2011
Nikolas Stauskas 6’6” SG (Mississauga, ON) – Class of 2012
Braeden Anderson 6’9” PF (Okotoks, AB) – Class of 2011
Brandon Bos 6’1” PG (Markham, ON) – Class of 2011
Kentawn Smith 6’8” CF (Piney Woods, MS) – Class of 2011
Wells Davis 6’5” SG (Mississauga, ON) – Class of 2011
Theon Reefer 6’6” CF (Toronto, ON) – Class of 2011
Emmanuel Ajayi 6’6” PF (Toronto, ON) – Class of 2011
Sean Deniton 5’9” PG (Durham, NC) – Class of 2011
Rainier Croft 6’5” PF (Brampton, ON) – Class of 2011
Ben Davis 6’4” SF (Mississauga, ON) – Class of 2011
Daniel Levy 6’1” CG (Pickering, ON) – Class of 2011
Kurtis Ethier 6’1” PG (Toronto, ON) – Class of 2011

Departed are superstars like McDonald's All-American Game competitors Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. Versatile forward Dwight Powell and last year’s breakthrough performer, Brady Heslip, are gone too. It’s a tough act to follow. However, elite point guard Myck Kabongo will pick up where he left off after a strong performance for Canada’s bronze medal-winning U18 team last month in San Antonio. Kabongo ended up leading the team in scoring (19.8), rebounding (7.8), and assists (6.4). His incredible quickness, ability to change speeds, and ability to find the open man fits well with the AAU style of transition play.

Myck is the kind of player who can put our team on his back and we can overachieve this year after losing so much talent,” said Ro Russell.

As he takes the reigns on a reloaded roster, there is hope that other talents will emerge as their roles increase. One Russell believes will turn heads is Brandon Bos, an athletic 6’1” point guard heading to Kiski Prep (Saltsburg, PA) next year.

Brandon is the ‘Brady Heslip’ of this year’s team,” says Russell, pointing at Heslip's meteoric rise to high-major D1 prospect after his first few games in last year's schedule with Grassroots.

He hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves, but will make some noise in July.”

(*Unfortunately, Brandon recently suffered a torn tendon in his ankle at the First Eight event in Massachusetts and will be sidelined)

After a solid performance as the starting small forward for Canada’s U18 team in June, 6’8” lefty Kevin Thomas brings his versatility to the AAU scene and is expected to have a big summer. Thomas averaged 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game at the FIBA Tournament of Americas last month and attended Christian Faith Prep this past year.

Another rising star that has started to draw significant attention across the US is 6’6” shooting guard Nikolas Stauskas. His former days as a point guard show why he has great vision with the ball, while his outside shooting range and accuracy stand out even more. The youngest player on the Grassroots U17 roster, Stauskas will enter his junior year at St. Mark’s Prep (Southborough, MA) in the fall.

Nik and Kevin have been stepping up, and with the additions of Braeden (Anderson) and Kentawn Smith, we can make some noise again this July.”

Braeden Anderson’s recruitment has skyrocketed in the past year since joining both Grassroots Canada and Christian Faith Prep. After making the move south from a small city in the province of Alberta, the 6’9” 225-pound Anderson now has over 10 high-major Division 1 schools showing serious interest in his upside.

The AAU status of 6’6” superstar wing Andrew Wiggins has yet to be revealed publicly. The 15-year-old arrives back soon from a breakthrough performance at the U17 World Championships for Team Canada. Wiggins played for Grassroots Canada last year and may wind up becoming a huge addition to their roster this summer. We will see how it unfolds.

Notable younger talents include the impressive backcourt rotation for the 15U team. Pickering High School stars MiKyle McIntosh (6’5” SF) and Kaza Keane (5’11” PG) combine with Xavier Rathan-Mayes (6’1” SG, Toronto/David & Mary Thomson) and Micqueel Martin (6’0” CG, Toronto/Downsview) to give excellent speed, strength, shooting ability, and potential. Some strong basketball bloodlines are being groomed here. Keane’s sisters currently play NCAA D1 basketball (Kalisha – Michigan State, Takima – Cleveland State). Rathan-Mayes’ father is Theron Mayes, a former Florida State star that had a brief NBA career.

Up front for the 15U group, a hidden talent has the Grassroots Canada Director excited about the future.

Sean Cate has size 17 shoes and will grow to 6’10”,” says Russell.

He is a late bloomer, but the hardest worker you will find and a 4.0 (GPA) student.”

Photo of Myck Kabongo from FIBA.com