In ten days, Syracuse embarks on a hoops caravan through Canada. For four days, starting August 21, the Orange will play every day in stops in both Montreal and Ottawa. SU will play two games at Montreal’s prestigious McGill University, then two in Ottawa, including a game at ScotiaBank Place, home to the NHL’s Senators.
The best part is that this late-summer basketball caravan that may or may not be televised (it looks likely Time Warner will pick it up) is an incredibly valuable tool for recruiting. Top-tier basketball talent is starting to bubble from the land of hockey. The biggest recruit in the country this summer was Andrew Wiggins, who chose Kansas. Some have said he’s the best high school talent since LeBron. He’s a native of Toronto.
Tyler Ennis is one of Syracuse’s most touted recruits, he’s from north of the border. Kris Joseph and Andy Rautins were both Canadians. The Cavs’ Tristan Thompson, Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, and Marquette’s Junior Cadougan are all from there as well. Steve Nash is a famous native son. Oh, and the number one pick in the NBA Draft this year, Anthony Bennett, is a Toronto product.
Most schools want to “own their state” or “close the borders” but Syracuse would love to own a different country. SU’s proximity to Canada is crucial, especially the relative short distance to Toronto, the country’s biggest city (and one of the most populated areas in all of the continent). Canada’s grassroots hoops has taken hold over the last decade, and now its creating hoops prodigies as talented as any found in the states. The country’s AAU system has matured, and coaching and development is taking shape in the 15 years since the NBA came to Canada in the Raptors and Grizzlies.
SU is attempting to become the most recognizable big-time hoops program in the country, and it could have a huge effect. If Canadians are becoming bigger basketball fans, developing better players, and identifying with the Orange, it’s a coup. Very savvy strategy by Jim Boeheim and the program.