International basketball tournaments are good fun, in small part because they’re great opportunities to remember some guys. And what better mid-major player from recent vintage to remember than Trae-Bell Haynes?
The Vermont star is among a handful of former (and one current) mid-major players that will compete for a spot on the Canadian national team ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers at the end of June. The 21 player list will be trimmed to 12 before the Nick Nurse-led team heads to Vancouver to try and earn a spot in Tokyo.
Other notable players that fall within the purview of this site include Anthony Bennett, Brandon Clarke, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk and Khem Birch. Notably, Andrew Nembhard also got an invite fresh off Gonzaga’s run to the national championship game.
Bell-Haynes, however, stands out amidst a list of players with NBA pedigree. The former Catamount star tweeted his thoughts shortly after the announcement.
Once again, preciate all the love! Work doesn’t stop— Trae Bell-Haynes (@TraeBall_5) May 27, 2021
Bell-Haynes most recently suited up for Canada in the latest window of qualifying for FIBA’s 2022 AmeriCup. He averaged 17.5 minutes over two games in February, scoring 7.5 points and dishing out 4.0 assists per game in the process.
The point guard left Burlington as one of the most decorated players in program history.
He ranks in the program’s top 10 in career scoring and top five in assists after starting 132 games, and averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, over four years under John Becker. The two-time America East Player of the Year helped generate the league’s top-ranked offense during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Alongside Anthony Lamb, Bell-Haynes led the Catamounts to the 2017 NCAA Tournament after a 16-0 league regular season, putting in a solid performance (15 points, 6 assists) in a first round loss to Purdue. While that team lost a couple of sturdy seniors, Bell-Haynes would head up a team that went 15-1 the following year and made the NIT. As a dour footnote for Catamount fans, the point guard was UVM’s leading scorer (18 points) in their dramatic AE Tournament championship game loss to the UMBC team that would knock off No. 1 Virginia.
His most dramatic moments at UVM may well have come during the 2017 Bahamas Showcase. He hit a game-winning free throw to beat what would be a 20-win Bradley team in the opening game, and then a game-winning floater to sink NIT-bound Northern Kentucky in the final.
He’s played professionally in Germany, Canada and Finland — with eight games in the G-League sprinkled — since graduating in 2019. This past season, he emerged as a star in Germany for the Crailsheim Merlins, helping lead a historically lower tier team to a 24-10 record and the Basketball Bundesliga playoffs.
Trae Bell-Haynes in seven games against Munich this season: 23.9 PPG (45.4 FG%, 9.7 FTA), 3.7 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 5.0 TPG. Including three 30 point games, 17 points in a 4th quarter, and a gamewinner floater in overtime. Offseason's gonna be payday, @TraeBall_5. pic.twitter.com/PxYGZJCDgI— Manuel Baraniak (@manuel_baraniak) May 26, 2021
Bell-Haynes riding that momentum to a spot on Nurse’s final roster does, however, seem like a tall task. His selection is likely a reflection, in part, of injury issues Canada is dealing with at the position, with superstars Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out because of injury.
Nonetheless, it’s a nice feather in the cap of a player whose breakout season in Germany may well have him positioned to be a part of the Canadian setup for years to come. And, of course, gives us a chance to relive one heck of a mid-major career.