For the first time in history, a Canadian is the favourite to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award, with Toronto big man Zach Edey leading the race. In the last week alone, Edey has been named the College Game Day Player of the Year, the Associated Press Big 10 Player of the Year, and Sporting News’ National Player of the Year.
Edey leads a list of 23 Canadian men who are set to take centre stage at March Madness this month. And as the best player on the No. 1 seeded Purdue Boilermakers, Edey is hoping to become just the sixth Canadian man in history to capture a National Championship, and the first since Kyle Wiltjer did it with Kentucky in 2012.
And while Edey is the biggest Canadian name at the tournament, there are a number of other Canadian men who are not only having career seasons on good college teams, but who have a legitimate chance to make it to the NBA as soon as next season.
Here are six Canadian men to watch at 2023 March Madness:
C Zach Edey, Purdue (No. 1 seed, East)
Edey is a 7-foot-4 centre playing in his Junior season at Purdue University. After only starting to play organized basketball at age 16, Edey had just two offers from Big Ten schools after high school, including Purdue.
But since entering college, Edey has improved every season, averaging 21.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.2 blocks per game on 60.2 percent shooting this season as he led the Boilermakers to a 29-5 record and Big Ten championship. Edey has become the No. 1 option for the Boilermakers this season, scoring in double figures in every game he played.
Edey has been the most dominant player in college basketball this season, making easy work of smaller players around the basket, where he has phenomenal touch, or using the screen-and-roll or post-up as a means for collapsing the defence. Plus, Edey is a deterrent around his own basket as a shot-blocker, gobbling up rebounds on both sides of the floor.
But there are still questions about Edey as an NBA prospect as he lacks the foot speed of the ideal modern NBA centre. He has a lot to prove in the March Madness tournament before he almost certainly declares for the 2023 NBA draft.
F Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Marquette (No. 2 seed, East)
Olivier-Maxence Prosper, or O-Max, is one of the best defenders in college basketball. The 6-foot-8 forward out of Montreal, Que. took a different route to college, joining the NBA Academy in Mexico City before going to Clemson and eventually transferring to Marquette.
Now, Prosper is thriving in his Junior season, averaging 12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game with 51/33/74 shooting splits while guarding the best player on the opposing team most nights, helping Marquette win the Big East Championship.
In fact, Prosper is one of the most versatile defenders you will come across, with an NBA-ready body that can switch across multiple positions or help off the ball as he keeps his head on a swivel and anticipates the action. Plus, Prosper has gotten a lot better as a shooter this season. But teams will continue to dare him to beat them from the outside and March Madness will provide a great platform for him to showcase his defensive chops and whether or not he can punish teams as a scorer.
His sister, Cassandre, will be playing in the women’s tournament for Notre Dame, as the two of them are never very far apart.
G Marcus Carr, Texas (No. 2 seed, Midwest)
Carr is in his fifth college season on his third college team, but that hasn’t stopped the 6-foot-2 point guard from having the best year of his career. Carr is averaging 15.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals with a near 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for the Texas Longhorns.
Carr is also having by far the most efficient shooting season of his career, shooting 47.9 per cent from two, 36 per cent from three on 6.1 attempts per game, and 77.8 per cent on 3.8 free-throws per game. He helped Texas win the Big 12 Championship with a 17-point performance against Kansas in the final, as he has a penchant for coming up big in clutch moments.
Coming off an impressive GLOBL JAM tournament with the Canadian under-23 team, Carr is proving that he is a legitimate NBA prospect. He is a physical defender on opposing guards and a pure point guard who manages the game at a high level and is shooting better than ever.
But as it stands, Carr is being left off of most mock drafts. He wasn’t even mentioned in The Athletic’s top-100 prospects, so he has to prove it in his final March Madness tournament if he is going to get a shot at cracking an NBA roster this summer.
F Emanuel Miller, TCU (No. 6 seed, West)
Emanuel is the older brother of Leonard Miller, a member of the G League Ignite and a likely first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. But Emanuel is no slouch, either.
The 6-foot-7 forward out of Scarborough, Ont. is a multi-positional defender with a knack for timely cuts and a rapidly developing three-point shot, showing off his improved skill set alongside Carr at GLOBL JAM this summer. After averaging 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 STOCKS per game on highly efficient 52/41/65 shooting splits this season at TCU, Miller is hoping to showcase his improved game at March Madness before potentially fighting for a spot on an NBA roster this summer.
G Ryan Nembhard, Creighton (No. 6 seed, South)
Speaking of older brothers, Ryan’s older brother, Andrew, is having immense success in his rookie NBA season as a member of the Indiana Pacers. And Ryan is hoping to follow in his brothers’ footsteps by having a tournament run to remember.
The 6-foot point guard out of Aurora, Ont., is undersized for his position, which makes it hard for him to finish around the rim or to get his shot off against bigger defenders. But Ryan is one of the better playmakers in the nation as a sophomore, averaging 4.9 assists to just 2.1 turnovers this season for Creighton in addition to scoring 11.9 points per game.
While Ryan will likely go back to college for his Junior year after this season, there will be plenty of eyes on him during March Madness after seeing what his older brother — who has a very similar game — has been able to accomplish in the NBA.
F Charles Bediako, Alabama (No. 1 seed, South)
Bediako is a 7-foot centre from Brampton, Ont., who starts for the No. 1 seed Alabama Crimson Tide. Bediako is a monster screen-setter and shot-blocker with a dangerous mix of size and mobility that could one day make him an NBA prospect if he continues to develop his all-around game and feel.
After averaging 6.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on 54.4 per cent shooting in his sophomore season, Bediako and likely top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Brandon Miller, led Alabama to the SEC Tournament Championship and are hoping to lead them deep into March.
Other Canadians on tournament rosters:
F Enoch Boakye (Brampton, Ont.), Arizona State
F Malcolm Bailey (Stratford, Ont.), Colgate
F Sam Thompson (Kitchener, Ont.), Colgate
G Okay Djamgouz (Oakville, Ont.), Drake
C Ryan Young (Montreal), Duke
F Pier-Olivier Racine (Gatineau, Que.), Fairleigh Dickinson
G Sebastien Lamaute (Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que.), Fairleigh Dickinson
G Ose Okojie (Brampton, Ont.), Howard
F Patrick Emilien (Toronto), Maryland
C Caelum Swanton-Rodger (Calgary), Maryland
F Luke Hunger (Montreal), Northwestern
G Xaivian Lee (Toronto), Princeton
F Scott Morozov (Toronto), Providence
F Javonte Brown (Toronto), Texas A&M
F Jasman Sangha (Brampton, Ont.), Texas A&M – Corpus Christi
G Sam Alamutu (Ajax, Ont.), Vermont
G TJ Hurley (Pelham, Ont.), Vermont