Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith of Canada, yet it has taken a century for the nation to the north to embrace the game in the same way as the United States. The advent of the Toronto Raptors in 1995 and the emergence of Vince Carter as a national superstar shortly thereafter helped change the culture of sports across Canada, and we are finally seeing the results.
The NBA is now littered with dozens of Canadian stars, including recent No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins of the Timberwolves and Tristan Thompson of the Cavs.
In college, Canadian products like Jamal Murray (Kentucky), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) and Dillon Brooks (Oregon) are household names among basketball fans. But recognizing only them sells short the effect Canada has had throughout the Division I landscape.
Here are the 10 most impactful Canadian players on mid-major teams for the upcoming season:
10. Nolan Narain, Fr., F, Hamilton, ON, San Diego State
Narain was a 4-star recruit coming out of La Lumiere (Indiana) and Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher is beaming with excitement at his potential. Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune:
"He’s good now. I close my eyes and think how good he’s going to be when he plays in his first game."
San Diego State won 28 games this past season and returns a veteran-laden roster that should allow Narain to slowly work his way into Fisher's rotation. Expect him to be a major force come March.
9. Cody John, So., G, Toronto, ON, Weber State
John was a major contributor to a Weber State squad that won the Big Sky and played in the NCAA Tournament last year. He played in 30 games and averaged 16.9 minutes and 4.4 points as a freshman. John should expect an expanded role in Weber State’s offense this season.
8. Link Kabadyundi, Jr., C, Montreal, QC, UT-Arlington
Kabadyundi played in 15 games as a freshman at TCU in the Big 12 before transferring to Blinn Junior College last year, where he averaged 8.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He should be able to dominate the Sun Belt with his size and athleticism.
7. Trae Bell-Haynes, Jr., G, Toronto, ON, Vermont
He averaged team highs of 12.2 points and 3.5 assist per game for a Vermont squad that won 23 games last year. Bell-Haynes was also third team All-Conference and made the American East All-Tournament team. Next up, he should become the focal point of the Catamounts' offense in 2016-17.
6. Obi Okolie, So., G, Ajax, ON, Brown
Despite sitting out the first nine games of the season, Okolie averaged 10 points per contest as a freshman. His older brother Agunwa was the Ivy League Defensive Player at Harvard this past season and Obie has shown similar promise at this stage of his career. His size should create match-up problems for opposing teams in the Ivy League and allow him to blossom.
5. Tanveer Bhullar, Jr., C, Toronto, ON, New Mexico State
Bhullar asked for his release earlier in the offseason, but changed his mind when the Aggies hired fellow Toronto native Paul Weir as head coach. Bhullar's sheer size will be a nightmare for any defender in the country and he hopes to follow in his older brother Sim’s massive 7-5 footsteps. Sim also starred for the Aggies and is now working his way through the D-League. Tanveer will be counted on to contribute on both ends of the floor to make up for NBA hopeful Pascal Siakam's departure.
4. Joseph Chartouny, So., G, Saint Hubert, QC, Fordham
The Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year is coming off an impressive freshman campaign, where he averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also set a Fordham freshman record with 161 assists. Chartouny is poised to build on his impressive first year and could develop into one of the elite guards in all of college basketball this season.
3. Jalen Poyser, So., G, Malton, ON, UNLV
Poyser was Canada's No. 1 recruit in the 2015 class, earning him a spot in Rivals.com's Top 100. Had a promising freshman campaign for the Runnin’ Rebels, coming off the bench in 33 games to average 16.2 minutes and 5.4 points per contest. Poyser is an elite talent who should become a dominant force in UNLV’s offense this season with the loss of several players to graduation.
2. Corey Johnson, So., G, Ottawa, ON, Harvard
Johnson is coming off an impressive season that saw him set a Harvard freshman record with 74 made threes. That was also the third-most of any player in Crimson history in a single season. He averaged 9.8 points per game and started 26 of 29 contests for Harvard. Coach Tommy Amaker should give Johnson the green light to shoot at will next season, which should allow for a significant increase in his offensive production. Johnson had a season-high 24 points against Brown and had two separate games where he made six three-pointers. Johnson is an elite shooter that should garner all-conference accolades before his time is up at Harvard.
1. Kassius Robertson, Jr., G, Toronto, ON, Canisius
Robertson had a break-out season for Canisius, where he averaged 14.1 points per game and was second in the MAAC with 86 three pointers. He started every game for the Golden Griffins and scored in double figures in 26 of 33 contests. Robertson is a fearless outside shooter who can play solid defense as well, leading Canisius with 36 steals. There aren’t many other offensive options for newly hired head coach Reggie Witherspoon, so Robertson will be given every opportunity. That might catapult him into the conversation for conference player of the year.