The next generation of Canadian hoops rose from humble beginnings to NBA dream
Canada has a lot to be proud of when it comes to basketball. We’ve come a long way since James Naismith – a Canadian teacher – invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, back in 1891.
It took over a century, but in 2019 the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. In recent years, the Great White North has produced some of the best players in the league. Last season, twenty-four Canadians played during the current season, including first-time All-Pro Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Andre Wiggins and Chris Boucher.
Progress has been steady; at least one Canadian has been selected in the first round in each of the previous ten NBA Drafts except in 2020. After the recent draft, two more Canadians joined Canada’s NBA family: Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Leonard Miller.
A late bloomer, Prosper was picked 24th overall by the Sacramento Kings and traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Miller, who some had projected to go as high as 10th, was selected 33rd overall by the San Antonio Spurs and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Both players took windy roads to make it to the NBA.
Prosper, who was born in Montreal, Quebec, started playing basketball at a young age. Both his parents are former college basketball players at Concordia, and his mother even played for the Canada women’s national basketball team.
O-Max, as he is sometimes called, initially attended L’Académie Ste-Thérèse. But it didn’t have a basketball team, so he transferred to Lake Forest Academy in Illinois. Prosper finished his high school career at the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City, Mexico, where last year’s rising Canadian rookie Bennedict Mathurin also graduated.
O-Max was rated a four-star recruit and committed to play college basketball at Clemson. However, after one season with the Tigers, he transferred to Marquette University, where he improved his game and became one of the top prospects in his class. O-Max averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game last season and entered the 2023 NBA draft,
The next Canadian off the board was Leonard Miller. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected the Canadian forward with the No. 33rd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The T-Wolves traded up to acquire the pick from the San Antonio Spurs earlier on draft night.
A native of Scarborough, Ont., Miller played last season for G-League Ignite, scoring 18.0 points per game on .556 per cent shooting from the field and .327 from three-point land. He added 11.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists a night in 24 games.
Standing at 6-foot-10, Miller started his career at Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill, Ont., before transferring to various high schools in Canada and the United States as well. Miller decided to skip college and pursue professional options instead. He signed a contract with the NBA G League Ignite, a team that provides elite prospects with an alternative pathway to the NBA. Miller impressed scouts with his athleticism, versatility and potential as a forward.
Both Prosper and Miller have a lot of talent and potential to succeed in the NBA. They also have a lot of pride and love for their country. They both represented Canada at international tournaments when they were younger and they hope to inspire more Canadian kids to follow their dreams.
Prosper and Miller are not only National squad teammates but also friends. They met each other at a pre-draft workout in Dallas and hit it off right away. They share a common bond of being Canadian and having similar journeys to the NBA. They also share a common goal of making their mark in the league and making their country proud.
They have worked hard to get where they are today, and they are not afraid of any challenge.
Prosper and Miller are part of a growing wave of Canadian talent in the NBA, which currently has 23 players who were born or raised in Canada. Among them are All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 23, and budding star Shaedon Sharper, who plays for the Portland Trailblazers.
The growing Canadian roster of stars bodes well for the National Team to win medals in the upcoming Olympics and FiBA world championships.