Canadian history was made on June 27th, 2012. Tristan Thompson, a basketball player out of Brampton, Ontario was selected fourth overall in that years NBA draft.
The 6-10 forward would only get to see his name in the history books, for a years time as fellow Canadian Anthony Bennett, a 6-8 behemoth went number one overall in the very next draft.
Bennett was also raised in Brampton.
The suburban city sits on the south end of the GTA and holds just over 500,000 permanent residents. Many of these residents are first or second generation immigrants, making up a tight knit community.
Bennett and Thompson represent the tip of the iceberg at what is quickly becoming a revolution in the sport of basketball, especially south of the border.
Per NorthpoleHoops.com there are 104 Canadian playing basketball south of the border in the NCAA, and 15 of them are from Brampton. Not only are they competing with other Canadians and Americans at the highest level, but very well dominating with Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, and Melvin Ejim of Iowa State both being legit player of the year candidates.
So how is a small, tight knit community in the shadows of Toronto producing such a sudden surge in world-class basketball players?
Well, this is really just an athletically focused and together community reaping their rewards.
First off, Brampton has no less than 8 semi professional sports teams, across a handful of fields. The tightened community involvement and influence these sports have on kids growing up is unquestioned.
Secondly, per capita Brampton has a huge number of community centers, YMCA’s, and different organizations, teams and leagues that get the kids out and playing.
That isn’t something you see out West as much. A city like Edmonton has twice the population yet seems unable to provide enough facilities for sports that don’t require the huge financial burden, like hockey or football. Western Canada’s impact on sports like Basketball, and Soccer indicate a lack of aggression in per suing grassroots development, and a lack of government funding to these communities.
In the basketball world, the best comparison I can think of what happened in the Rainier Beach district of Seattle.
A community involved in athletics, and the support and safety net it provided the communities youth led to a few NBA starts in Jamal Crawford of the LA Clippers, and now retired Brandon Roy. These two, like Thompson and Bennett of Brampton, stayed involved in the community and helped curate support and focus for the whole area -- schools, teams, fundraising, community centers, etc – and little by little the area started churning out more talented kids who went on to do big things, and be able to better give back to the community, which they all have done.
Seeing Brampton follow a similar trajectory makes me excited for the future of not only basketball in this country, but sport in general. Not everyone can afford hockey skates, but we can all go out, be active, and find what it is we love to do.
Understanding the role sports play in this has been huge for building up communities like Brampton, and Rainer Beach. I would love to see Edmonton follow suite more aggressively.