For years the city of Ottawa, Ontario has been making a case for most fertile region in Canada to find NCAA talent outside of Toronto. Montreal currently holds that title by a land slide but metropolitan Canadian cities such as Ottawa, ON, Hamilton, ON and Halifax, NS are not far behind. Even Winnipeg, MB has a budding high major prospect scratching the surface of his potential.
Ottawa strong is their motto and the city has consistently produced high profile prep prospects with some oozing potential in recent years. Unexpectedly though a series of events (coaching changes, injuries, even legal issues) has derailed any conversations of Ottawa raised blue chip prospects taking college basketball by storm, let alone flirt with the NBA.
Proof people is in the pudding, lets break it down...
1995 born 6-6 swing man Marial Shayok— represented Canada internationally and attended prep school in New Jersey at Blair Academy via St. Patricks, ON. Originally committed to Buzz Williams and Marquette but when Buzz bolted for a gig at Virginia Tech, Shayok at the eleventh hour committed to Tony Bennett and Virginia. Take nothing away from the success of the Cavalier program but the type of athlete Shayok is, his talent seems locked up in shackles at times under Bennett's tough defensive system. Now a junior at Virginia, Shayok will make a ton of cash playing this game but not likely at the NBA level.
1995 born 6-2 PG Kevin Zabo—touted the next promising point guard coming out of Canada. Ask Steve Nash about Zabo, the future NBA hall of famer held private workouts with him when he was a top flight point guard in the NEPSAC for Brewster, NH. This before his post grad year was littered with injuries. He was never the same and after a injury riddled tenure at San Diego State, Zabo spent a season with JUCO outfit Indiana Hills last season before returning to D1 with Kent State this year. Far from the NBA radar.
1996 born 6-5 sniper Corey Johnson— hung around his peers in national rankings then catapulted most of them by the end of his senior season. Johnson literally shot his way on to a stint with the Junior men's national team. Then kicked ass on a non sneaker sponsored AAU circuit with Toronto program Northern Kings. Parlayed this into a post grad year at Vermont Academy, VT in the NEPSAC, and then chose Harvard over Butler. Johnson in two collegiate campaigns though is yet shake the one dimensional (catch and shoot) label stuck to his improving skill set. No NBA in his future prospects but a Harvard diploma on the wall is no small feat either.
Perhaps the most disappointing story out of Ottawa is 1997 born 6-9 F/C Eddie Ekiyor. To summarize Ekiyor's highs and lows, when now NBA agent Mike George was a coach with AAU club CIA Bounce, he once said Ekiyor would end up top three in the 2016 Canadian class. Were talking same conversation as Denver Nugget Jamal Murray and Maryland freshman Justin Jackson. Agent George had grounds after Ekiyor was as advertised with Canada twice and then on the EYBL circuit with CIA Bounce. Then came along a traffic incident that saw him get charged with a hit and run. As a end result Ekiyor de-committed from Xavier and is now currently playing CIS Basketball averaging 10 ppg and a team high 6.7 rpg for Carelton.
1997 born 6-5 forward Max Boursiquot—deserves a mention too. Much like Johnson Max made the most of a post grad season after making a name for himself among college coaches playing on the adidas circuit with Montreal, QC club Brookwood Elite. Boursiquot landed with Northeastern sneaking up on everyone along the way.
Just a sample size of the talent Ottawa has been pumping out recently. As feel good stories as Corey Johnson and Maxime Bousiqout are, Shayok, Zabo and Ekiyor still make Canadian hoop fans often think to themselves what could have been.
However, have no fear folks... Noah Kirkwood is here!
He stands 6-7 and possesses the flexibility to play the one through three positions. More admirably he now carries the weight of the Ottawa hoop scene on his shoulders.
Kirkwood has represented Canada twice. At last summer's U17 FIBA World championships he averaged 3.7 points and 4 rebounds per game in 15 minutes only. After his mediocre tour of duty with Canada, he took the court for Brookwood Elite on the adidas AAU circuit and the young man blew up like a crescendo.
In seven games at the 2016 adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas which saw Brookwood fall in the Elite 8, Kirkwood averaged 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.9 minutes. Shooting 42% from the field, 40% from three and 70% from the line (15/21). This following an eye opening 9 games on the Gauntlet averaging 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. Shooting a impressive 55% from the field, 50% from downtown (10/20) and 73% from the line (30/41).
By the time AAU was over Kirkwood had Tony Bennett at Virginia, Shaka Smart at Texas and Mike Brey at Norte Dame among others enamored with the next big prospect from our nations Capital.
Still not sold on Noah Kirkwood?
By the end of the 2016, on his 17th birthday in late December to be exact, Villanova head coach Jay Wright called and became the latest high major program extending a scholarship offer to the swingman. For the record, the Wildcats are reigning national champions and at the time of Kirkwood's offer they were ranked number one in the nation.
(R) Kirkwood in his Brookwood digs.
If your program is looking for one of those bowling ball perimeter players that can do different things out there Kirkwood is that dude. Scoring, rebounding, defends and can handle the basketball too, Kirkwood's game is like fine wine. You don't watch him once and just automatically say 'he's unbelievable. You watch him more and more and as he ages you're more impressed with him.
Rugged, strong and long, Kirkwood overwhelms players on the perimeter with his power more than he floats around them with grace and his sneaky athleticism.
But just because Kirkwood isn't someone who produces without making the highlight reels nightly, it doesn't mean we should take what he provides for granted. Kirkwood is already a legitimate high major prospect, even if many haven't picked up on it yet.
What makes Kirkwood's story extraordinary is he attends Ashbury College in Ottawa, ON. A minnow program away from the American high school spotlight and the Greater Toronto Area prep scene. How he's piled up such a reputable offer list is a testament to his tenure with AAU club Brookwood Elite. Playing beside Luguentz Dort seems to bring out the best in Kirkwood. Evident at the end of last summer when both were invited to the FIBA America's Team Camp in Mexico where Kirkwood took home the Camp MVP award and it officially put him on the NBA radar with still the possibility of a post grad season to go after this summer. A season that will most likely see him take his talents south of the border in preparation for life in the NCAA and dare we say shot at a one and done.
NBA will be a topic of discussion the next 18 months and it will began when Kirkwood plays again on the Adidas Gauntlet this summer. How he fairs banging against America's most household names will have high major coaches monitoring closely.
How effective out of the gates on the adidas Gauntlet will Kirkwood be?
Can he make an immediate impact if he does do a post grad season next fall?
Can he evolve into a leader on the defensive end, to a point where he steps up and shuts down the oppositions top player one through four?
Worst case scenario to have Kirkwood four years in college would be a treat too. NCAA seniors are doing their part of re-invigorating the idea of NBA ready seniors as a viable draft option if your paying attention. Kirkwood has those intabgibles if he lands in the right situation that lets the creativity and high IQ in his game shine.
Ottawa strong is the motto, only time will tell if this young man Noah Kirkwood has the shoulder strength to shake off the underachieving label that haunts Ottawa's finest from the past.
When your as versatile as this and wired so impressively above the neck and between the ears it's hard not to get excited about who has next in the nations capital.
Tag(s): Canadian Ballers