Ever since 1978, the McDonald’s All-American game has rounded up the best high school basketball players in the United States for a televised exhibition of future NBA stars.
The game has become a springboard for future success, as it’s been an opportunity for everyone from Michael Jordan to LeBron James to get their first chance at national exposure. On April 14, Canada will become host to its own high school all-star game, as the top 24 high schoolers across the country will take part in the inaugural BioSteel All-Canadian Basketball Game.
The All-Canadian game comes likely as a result of the ever-increasing collective interest in the sport, with the top draft picks in the last two NBA drafts being born in Canada — Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins — as well as Canada’s lone NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, making the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Paul Sir, the Executive Director of Basketball Alberta, said the All-Canadian Game is the result of basketball growing into one of Canada’s most popular sports.
“Basketball is the fastest growing sport in Canada and its accessibility and low barriers to entry make it very popular,” Sir said. “The rapidly increasing popularity of basketball globally makes the timing of this game appealing.”
BioSteel and Canada Basketball — both of whom partnered to host the event — believe they can use this game to help foster a culture of basketball in Canada.
“Just having a first class broadcast should, by extension, benefit all levels of the sport, including the CIS,” Sir said. “The hope is that it will become a permanent fixture and raise the profile of our high school athletes.”
Sir was a part of the 12-person committee tasked with selecting the athletes to participate in the All-Canadian game. As the only member of the committee from Alberta, he made sure that Edmonton’s own Awak Piom from Harry Ainlay High School would make the roster.
“I worked hard to get Awak selected because he was deserving.” Sir said. “He’s a 6’3” two guard who can shoot the ball with range and create his own shot off the dribble. He’s a dynamic player who can score a lot of points quickly, and was the leading scorer on our U17 provincial team.”
While Piom serves as a source of pride for the basketball community in Alberta, there’s still plenty of room for the sport to grow in the province.
“Alberta’s basketball quality needs to improve if we want more players recognized at this level,” Sir said. “There are many great players who come from Ontario, and the rest of Canada needs to strive to reach their level,”
His point is emphasized by the fact that 18 of the 24 players selected for the All-Canadian game from Ontario. In fact. of the 11 Canadian players chosen in the last four NBA drafts, nine were from the Greater Toronto Area alone.
The game will be on April 14 and televised on TSN. On April 13, there will be a dunk contest and a three point competition for the players. If the game lives up to its hype and brings out a sizeable audience, expect this game to become a yearly event that showcases an improving talent pool of Canadian ballers, and the future of our ever-evolving national team as well.