Organizers at the Peach Jam AAU event closed the doors for fear of violating a fire code.
It wasn’t unprecedented. Peach Jam, the crown jewel event on the summer basketball recruiting calendar, has become a rite of passage and proving ground for future stars such as LeBron James, Derrick Rose and John Wall over the past decade. The anticipation surrounding Wiggins and company was no different, except for one important distinction:
Every player on CIA Bounce, which emerged as one of the top AAU programs in North America this summer, hails from the Toronto suburbs. Wiggins, a 6-foot-8 rising junior, has dominated American counterparts his own age and is already the most ballyhooed prospect Canada has produced.
His ascension has established Toronto as the newest hotbed for college basketball talent and helped usher in what many predict will become the greatest generation of Canadian basketball players.
“We’re seeing tremendous international growth and we’re seeing a respect that probably hasn’t been around for a very long time,” said Michael Cvitkovic, the chief executive of Ontario Basketball. “I think we’re potentially on the golden age of basketball in this country, and specifically in this province.”
The breakthrough was years in the making for a city considered the fifth-largest television market in North America.
The prime reasons for the basketball explosion include: The arrival of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 1995; an improved youth system — funded largely by Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who grew up in British Columbia — that focuses on skill development; and the city’s diverse population.
According to the the 2006 Canadian census, half of Toronto’s population was born outside Canada and it has changed the dynamics of the sport throughout the entire country.
Leo Rautins, an Ontario native, became the first Canadian basketball player selected in the first round of the NBA draft out of Syracuse in 1983.
But the past two years have seen the country reach unmatched heights in that regard. In 2011, two Toronto area natives — Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph — were selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Three more Canadians were chosen in this year’s draft, including Kris Joseph, a Montreal native who was an All-Met at Carroll.
But Canada has never seen a player of Wiggins’s pedigree, and the adulation he has garnered from college coaches and NBA scouts alike has brought attention to his teammates.
CIA Bounce Coach Mike George said 11 of his 12 under-17 players this year will earn a Division I college basketball scholarship; three are ranked among the top 50 prospects in North America, according to Rivals.com.