Cabs select Canadian Bennett with first pick in NBA draft

Canadian basketball history happened a year earlier than expected Thursday, in a stunning turn of events that surprised even Anthony Bennett. The freshman forward from UNLV became the first Canadian selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft, taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Canadian basketball history happened a year earlier than expected Thursday, in a stunning turn of events that surprised even Anthony Bennett.

The freshman forward from UNLV became the first Canadian selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft, taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I’m just as surprised as everybody else,” Bennett said moments after he strode across the Barclays Center stage in his scarlet and grey suit — UNLV colours. “I didn’t really have any idea who’s going No. 1 or who was going No. 2. I heard everything was up for grabs. But I’m just really happy, glad that I have this opportunity, and I’ve just got to thank God for everything.”

The 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has starred for Canada’s junior national team and was the Mountain West Conference player of the year, but was rarely mentioned as a top-pick possibility in the lead up to the draft.

He’s also been sidelined since he had rotator cuff surgery in May, but said on the eve of draft day that he wasn’t concerned his injury would affect his draft stock. Turns out, he was bang on.

Tristan Thompson of Brampton was selected No. 4 by the Cavaliers in the 2011 draft, making him the highest Canadian draft pick before Thursday.

The historical selection comes amid heady days for Canadian basketball, and a year ahead of when many projected it would happen. Teen phenom Andrew Wiggins of Vaughan, Ont., who’ll play for the Kansas Jayhawks next season, is touted as the probable first overall pick in the 2014 draft.

“Yeah. It’s just crazy. Made history. I can’t really complain about that,” said Bennett, who had between 25 and 30 family members with him in New York — he lost count. “It’s just like a long time dream that I had since I first started playing basketball, even though it was six or seven years ago. It’s just crazy. Next year with Wiggins, hopefully he does well at Kansas. I’m rooting for him. I’m pretty sure he’ll get that No. 1 spot.”

Steve Nash of Victoria held the Canadian record before Thompson, going 15th overall to the Phoenix Suns in 1996. The Los Angeles Lakers star, who’s also the general manager of Canada’s men’s team, retweeted the NBA’s announcement adding: “Proud on Proud!”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also took to Twitter, writing “Congrats to (at)AnthonyBennett for being the first Cdn ever drafted 1 overall in the NBA draft. Good luck in Cleveland, we’re all behind you.”

Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., a forward from Gonzaga, was taken No. 13 by the Boston Celtics via a trade of picks with the Dallas Mavericks.

There was suspense right up to the moment the No. 1 pick was announced, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men Nerlens Noel and Alex Len.

Orlando passed on both of them, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown with the third pick.

The six-foot-seven Bennett, who played high school basketball at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, didn’t participate in the draft combine or any pre-draft workouts, and will have to skip summer league. But he clearly impressed in his interviews — he interviewed for the top five teams — and his play in college last season.

Bennett had surgery a few weeks after the Runnin’ Rebels were upset in the second round of March Madness in a 64-61 loss to California.

The Canadian was asked if it would only be appropriate if American Seth Jones — son of former Toronto Raptor Popeye Jones — goes first overall in Sunday’s NHL draft.

“I’m not a big fan of hockey, but I support the Maple Leafs,” Bennett said. “Hopefully he does get picked No. 1. It’s crazy. Great feeling, man.”

The Cavaliers are determined to return to the playoffs after losing 58 games last season and firing coach Byron Scott. Bennett said he believes he’s pro-ready, but “at the same time there’s a lot of things I need to work on. I made it, but I just need to keep working, trying to get a second contract, trying to do well for myself and the team. Just got to keep grinding from here.”

Olynyk, meanwhile, wound up with Boston, after the Celtics sent the No. 16 pick and two future second-rounders to the Mavs to get the seven-footer who was fifth in voting for the Wooden Award.

Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 63 per cent from the field while leading Gonzaga to a 32-3 season.

Olynyk posted on his Twitter feed: “Today is the day Ive been working for my whole life. Just wanna thank everyone who’s helped me get where I am, so blessed! thanks nbadraft.”

Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that would include his future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five — Bosh went fourth to Toronto — this one lacked the star power and perhaps the promise of stardom.

Noel and Len are also coming off injuries and couldn’t work out for teams either.

Just Posted

Alberta has made a more detailed framework for those looking to acquire an exemption to the mandatory indoor mask bylaw. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Alberta changes requirements for mask exemptions

Masks wearing has been recommended for almost a year and provincially mandated… Continue reading

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP investigating shooting near Maskwacis

Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP are seeking public assistance after a shooting has… Continue reading

Rode
Smith among impressive group of RDC soccer Queens recruits

There have been a number of cases where younger girls have developed… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools is projecting a $4-million budget deficit for 2021-22 school year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools prepares $124-million budget

$1 million COVID recovery plan to assist students

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is shown in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The final three games of Canada's Secret Cup women's hockey tournament will be played in Calgary's NHL arena.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

FILE - In this Thursday, July 18, 2019 file photo, Ron Francis talks to reporters in Seattle after he was introduced as the first general manager for Seattle's yet-to-be-named NHL hockey expansion team. Four years since George McPhee was a “puppet master” of the NHL leading up to the Vegas expansion draft, general managers approached this trade deadline with Seattle’s upcoming addition to the league in mind. While Kraken GM Ron Francis prepares – and maybe made a handshake deal or two already like McPhee did – Seattle was on his colleagues’ minds.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Simmering internal discontent in his United Conservative caucus has boiled over into an open challenge to his leadership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) celebrates in the outfield at the end of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

FILE - Jordan Spieth waits his turn to putt during the third round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio, in this Saturday, April 3, 2021, file photo. Spieth will try to complete the career Grand Slam next week at the PGA Championship. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas, File)
Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Most Read