I recently had the pleasure of covering both the McDonald’s All American Game and the Biosteel All Canadian Game, which each took place on March 29th and April 10th respectively. While at both games there were some things I noticed and I could not help but compare the two games. A lot of the comparisons were little things. Things like which jerseys were better (Biosteel), which game was played in a bigger stadium (McDonald’s), and which game displayed more effort (both played hard). However, after many Canadian basketball players made the point that they believe Canada basketball is really close to American basketball in terms of talent at the youth level, I wanted to give my humble opinion on the comparisons from a basketball sense.
Canadians play the game faster
If the Biosteel All Canadian game and the McDonald’s All American Game is the only measuring stick between Canadian and American basketball, than surprisingly the Biosteel All Canadian game was played at a considerably faster pace. Now there are some caveats to this conclusion. The McDonald’s All American Game players were open about their struggles at the United Center, also coaching philosophies between the two games were different. The coaches in Biosteel All Canadian game are CIS coaches, whereas the coaches in the McDonald’s All American Game are High School coaches. This means the Biosteel All Canadian game coaches are used to a 24 second shot clock, while the McDonald’s All American coaches may or may not even have a shot clock in their league. This is something that Gary Decesare actually spoke about after Team West beat Team East in the McDonald’s All American game.
The St. Rita head coach admitted that they do not play with the shot clock in Illinois and would like the shot clock to be a universal rule. With that being said, there was a shot clock in the All American Game and it was milked a lot at times. Also, most Canadian high school leagues do not have a shot clock and it did not hamper their pace. Even just from looking at the box score from both games, you'll see the Biosteel All Canadian Game was played faster; Team West beat team East 109-107 in the McDonald’s All American, Team Red beat Team White 153-135 in the Biosteel All Canadian Game. Thus, the fact is the game may very well just be a faster brand of basketball in Canada. The way the NBA is going, faster might be better.
Talent at the guard in Canada is closer than people think
Now here is the truth, Colin Sexton is probably better than any of the Canadian guards in the Biosteel All Canadian Game. Same goes for Trevon Duval, however, at this present time, they are not a million times better than what the Biosteel All Canadian Game had to offer. In fact, after seeing the game, I will make the argument that the talent level is close. Jahvon Blair is a great basketball player, who won the Biosteel All Canadian game MVP last year and he got outshined by Ignas Brazdeikis, Luguentz Dort and Marcus Carr. It should be stressed that guard play in America is better but that might be a different story in the near future.
McDonald’s All American game has lots of Big Men while Canadian Basketball are in desperate need of big men
The 2016 Biosteel All Canadian Game featured the likes of Thon Maker and Kalif Young. Granted Thon Maker did not play in the game, under reasonable circumstances as he was being drafted to the NBA. Nevertheless, both Kalif Young and Thon Maker are true big men who either play with their back to the basket or have length to be a centre. This year the only really true big man graduating in 2017 is Grant Shephard. Shephard is a 6’10 hustle big man who had a solid year at Montverde Academy this season. Even Matur Maker, who is 6’10, is essentially a small forward with length. Those two were the tallest guys in the game.
This is in stark contrast to the McDonald’s All American game as the main takeaway from the game was how impressive the big men were. Michael Porter Jr. is a 6’10 power forward who has lots of polish to his game. DeAndre Ayton is every bit of 7’0 with a shot and also rebounds. The list goes on as players like Mohamed “Mo” Bamba, Brandon McCoy, Mitchell Robinson, Jaren Jackson and Nick Richards were all featured in the McDonald’s All American game. Not only that, but I was really impressed with the talent that each player had. In particular, Mo Bamba and Mitchell Robinson looked intimidating playing together. With the exception of Porter Jr, all of these players are taller than the tallest guys at the Biosteel All Canadian game.
The All Canadian game featured players as young as the Class of 2019
This is an interesting observation with an underrated point. The All Canadian Game allowed players as young as the class of 2019 to compete. Three players from this class played in the game: Emanuel Miller, Jaden Bediako and Quincy Guerrier. Guerrier had the more productive showing out of the three. Nevertheless there are two ways an expert can look at this decision. One, it allows for the 2017 guys to beat up on the class of 2018, and 2019 children. Honestly this does not hold much weight as the MVP of Team Red was Luguentz Dort and he graduates in 2018
Second, it allows for guys to get more exposure to get into America and play NCAA ball. I am of the opinion that no matter how talented a Canadian player is, if he is not playing in an American school by the start of his grade 11 year, than their chances of going to the diminish greatly. That is not because of the lack of talent that the kid might possess but because there is not enough eyes on Canadian high school basketball for an NCAA division 1 to notice a "diamond in the rough" in Canadian high schools on a consistent basis. Although, that is slowly not becoming the case, it still is as almost all the high schoolers featured in the Biosteel All Canadian game, spent some time at an American school.
With this decision to allow 2018 and 2019 children to play, it allows for those children to get more exposure because if that Canadian child is not picked up by an NCAA college, than their skills will not properly evolve. This is due to Canada struggling to develop talent at the youth level in almost every sport not named hockey. At the end of the day, exposure is what these games are about and it was smart of the Biosteel selection committee to get the young 2019 and 2018 class in the game to circumvent that issue of development after the age of 18. This decision will most likely accelerate the process to get the Canadian basketball to the level of American basketball.
The one thing that both games showcased equally was effort. Both games were a joy to watch and it was surprising. With the lack of effort displayed in the All Star Games at the pro level, one would think that the high school level would follow suit. The opposite happened as some of these players played almost too hard for their own good. However, it was fun to be at both games because of this reason.