May 30, 2014 6:56 pm

How Toronto became a hotbed of basketball talent


TORONTO – There’s been a wealth of Toronto-area athletes drafted into the NBA in recent years.

Orlando Magic power forward Andrew Nicholson is one of those athletes – but when he was a kid, he didn’t even like basketball.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson visited his elementary and high school in Mississauga this week. His first grade teacher Neva Dalli remembers the tall lanky kid in her class.

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“One of the teachers wanted him to play just because of sheer height. He didn’t want to. He had no interest,” she said.

Nicholson spoke to students at St. John XXIII about his career and how he got started.

“Initially I played baseball. But I started playing (basketball) late and it really grew on me,” he said.

Nicholson was drafted in 2012 with Orlando Magic.

Read More: Why is Canada suddenly good at basketball? 

Anthony Bennett was drafted first last year and Tristan Thompson was drafted fourth – both play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cory Joseph was also drafted in 2011 and plays for the San Antonio Spurs.

There are nine Canadian players on the NBA radar in 2014 and six of them are from the GTA.

Paul Jones, a Raptors Radio broadcaster suggested the level of competition in Toronto has improved in recent years.

“These kids now are part of clubs and they’re going down to the U.S playing against top notch competition and getting that exposure,” he said.

Jones says coaching is one of the biggest assets because people are really putting the effort into the kids.

“Here’s a kid like Kevin Pangos who is from the Newmarket area, a kid that went to high school didn’t really play a lot of AAU basketball but was coached well, his dad’s a coach and that’s the kind of stuff that’s helping our kids, getting them the exposure,” he says.

Nicholson credits much of his success to growing up watching the Toronto Raptors.

“It sparked my interest too,” he said. “I used to go to the games as well when Vince and them were there.  They were exciting games and I wanted to be out there at one point.”

Nicholson said there was also support and encouragement from his family and coaches.

He’s back now to offer a basketball camp this summer for youth.

“I used to be one of those kids,” says Nicholson “Just a way to give back to the kids. Provide them with quality training, just to enhance their fundamentals in basketball.”

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