Duke’s freshman phenom RJ Barrett is set to take the college basketball world by storm in the up coming 2018-19 season. The No. 1 rated recruit in the class of 2018 didn’t grow up playing basketball at Rucker Park in Harlem or on the famed courts at Venice Beach in California, but rather in Mississauga, Ontario which is just a few minutes west of downtown Toronto.
When the blue bloods of college hoops are heading north of the border to find the next big thing you can be sure that many other coaches across the NCAA will follow suit.
Here are five true freshmen from Canada that could end up being difference makers for their programs over the next four years.
Daniel Sackey - Valparaiso
Sackey is a 5’9 guard who is originally from Winnipeg, MB but moved to the Toronto area to play for Thornlea Secondary in order to increase his hopes of playing in the NCAA. Winnipeg isn’t exactly the kind of place where you’ll see Jim Boeheim and John Calipari sitting in the stands at a high school gym, so Sackey enters his freshman year at Valpo a little under the national radar. However, Sackey is one of the fastest human beings you will ever see on a basketball court and is also freakishly athletic. He won the BioSteel All-Canadian slam dunk competition - which is the Canadian version of the McDonald’s All-American game - against several big name recruits. Sackey should become an all-conference talent and be a dominant force in the Missouri Valley Conference over the next four years.
Sam Rautins - Canisius
Sam is the younger brother of former Syracuse stand-out Andy Rautins, who was a second round draft pick of the New York Knicks in 2010. His father Leo also starred for Syracuse in the early 80’s and was a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, making him the first Canadian ever drafted in the NBA.
Sam wasn’t as highly recruited as his older brother because he was overshadowed by several of his high school teammates at the Athlete Institute who were five-star recruits (Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort and Addison Patterson, who is the No. 1 recruit in Canada class of 2020). The younger Rautins has a lightening quick release from three-point range and could become one of the deadliest long range shooters in all of college basketball at Canisius.
Keshaun Saunders - Toledo
Saunders is a 6’5 guard from Brampton, ON who averaged 21.3 points per game during his senior year at the famed Orangeville Prep program. Saunders was often the second or third offensive option playing alongside five-star Michigan commit Ignas Brazdeikis, but he is more than capable of being the guy if called upon. He has a lightening quick first step and plays much longer than his 6’5 frame, which should allow him to excel in the very competitive MAC. Saunders is an elite scorer with a high motor that should become a fan favorite in Toledo.
Jahbril Price-Noel - Pacific
Price-Noel is a 6’7 guard from Toronto, ON who turned down some bigger schools (Kansas State and Wake Forest) to play for Toronto Raptors legend Damon Stoudamire at Pacific. He was a dominant force in the BioSteel All-Canadian game where he looked just as good or better than many of the four and five-star recruits he was competing against.
Price-Noel should make an immediate impact as a freshman and help turn around a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2013-14.
Deon Ejim - University of Chicago-Illinois
Deon is the younger brother of Melvin Ejim, who was the 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year and an All-American at Iowa State. Ejim led his high school (TRC Academy) to the provincial (state) title and was named MVP of the playoffs. The 6’7 Ejim is another high basketball IQ player who just seems to know where to be on every play. He will join three other Canadians this year at UIC who can now challenge Oregon for the title of “Team Canada South.”