There is no denying the basketball explosion happening in Canada right now. From Tristan Thompson to Andrew Nicholson, Cory Joseph to Anthony Bennett, Canadians are making their way in the NBA like never before. We thought high school phenom Andrew Wiggins would be the first Canadian to be the top pick in an NBA Draft, but Bennett pressed fast forward when he was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in June. Also, British Columbia's Kelly Olynyk is heading to Boston to play with the Celtics.
In all the new-found hype, the one thing lacking was a summer tournament.
Enter Toronto-based AAU team CIA Bounce and OVO. Yes, that OVO. October's (and Canada's) Very Own doesn't get nearly enough credit for repping his city worldwide, but Drake continues to ensure Toronto is on the map in sports as well as music. The fourth annual OVO Fest happens this Monday, and the first annual OVO Bounce basketball tournament wrapped up Friday night at Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre.
A four-day event, the tournament gave Toronto an opportunity to show their love for the game. The first night had a decent showing at Ryerson's Kerr Hall, but the crowd more than tripled in size each night thanks to social media buzz and word of mouth. Because of Drake's presence and influence, the tournament quickly turned into a must-attend event for any basketball fan. With transplant Torontonian and long-time Raptor Amir Johnson pairing up with new Detroit Piston Brandon Jennings for Team OVO, and Canadian hooper Denham Brown putting on a show in Friday's final in front of a packed house, it was obvious this would soon be a Caribana weekend staple.
Jennings and Johnson were the lone NBAers to suit up, but there was plenty of pro experience on the floor as well as 7-1 16-year-old Thon Maker who held his own against pros from all over. Team Canada had training camp at the Air Canada Centre, so Tristan Thompson, Joseph, Bennett and Olynyk were on hand to watch the tournament. Wiggins was also there, sharing smiles and handshakes before sitting undisturbed and watching his city show love for the game that will make him a very famous young man when the 2014 draft goes down.
In the end, Team OVO took the tournament title with an 89-81 victory over Team 5 Guys, but Brown managed to keep things close. For the former UConn Husky, it felt good to remind people of his game and to see how basketball has grown in Canada.
"I can't believe basketball in this city, the impact it has," Brown said. "The amount of kids and people who came out to support us is remarkable."
Judging by a queue that wrapped around the Mattamy Athletic Centre and onto Yonge Street hours before the event began, it will be interesting to see how the event grows and expands next summer.
"Something like this next year, they're definitely going to have to get a bigger venue," Brown said. "I've never seen it like this...it's just a great feeling."