Basketball Review

With March Madness in full swing, the NBA playoffs right around the corner and provincial basketball championships winding down, March is the month of basketball! The popularity and level of basketball in Canada continues to grown, as we take a look at one of Canada’s rising basketball stars as well some of Canada’s past greats.

Kevin Pangos

While many will argue that Steve Nash is the most successful Canadian to ever play in the NBA, Kevin Pangos believes that one day he can join that discussion. The 18-year old from Holland Landing is on the right path, as he prepares for the next phase of his young career, joining the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the fall after earning a full scholarship to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

Earning a full scholarship to a Division 1 school is a feat that is impressive enough, but what makes Pangos’ accomplishment even more remarkable is that he did it while completing his entire four-year high school career at the modestly sized Dr. John M. Denison Secondary School in Newmarket (total student body of just over 1,000). At any point in the school year, Canada Basketball estimates that there are up to 100 Canadians playing high school basketball in the U.S. While Pangos was extremely tempted to join them and compete against a higher level of competition for his grade 12 season, he and his family ultimately made the decision to stay home in Canada. Pangos’ parents (both accomplished athletes in their own rights) recognized the advantage Kevin would have enjoyed while playing in the U.S., but they felt that having Kevin at home and being able to help him prepare for the next stage of his career would be the best move. As one associate head coach of a Division 1 college in the U.S. notes, coaches may be scouting more in the U.S., but if a player is good enough, as Pangos certainly is, coaches will go to wherever that player is.

For the time being, Pangos has become one of only two Canadians to be named to the World Select Team at the prestigious Nike Hoop Summit. The Nike Hoop Summit features the best high school basketball players in the world and will provide Pangos with an excellent opportunity to prepare for the heightened level of competition that he will face in the NCAA next year.

Kevin Pangos has been called the next Steve Nash on a number of occasions and if his career continues on its current trajectory those predictions could very well come true.

Manitoba High School Sports Hall of Fame

On May 7, 2011 The Manitoba High School Sports Hall of Fame will welcome two basketball players, an accomplished coach, and one basketball team that will forever be remembered as some of the best that Manitoba had to offer.

Angie Straub (Johnson)

Angie Straub enjoyed an illustrious playing career that included success at every level of competition and it all began during her days at John Taylor Collegiate. After high school, Angie played an integral role on the University of Winnipeg’s first ever women’s intercollegiate basketball team. Few could have predicted the success that the “Lady Wesmen” would enjoy in their inaugural season, as they lost their first senior league game and then went on to close out the regular season with an impressive 19-game winning streak. Angie and the team won two more games in a row to sweep the University of Manitoba in the best-of-three Manitoba Senior Championship.

Angie’s success at the university continued the following three years as she was named a first-team all-star every year while leading her team to the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1977. In 1976 she took a break from the Lady Wesmen to play on the Canadian National Team at the Montreal Olympics. Having enjoyed success at all levels, Angie’s playing career was capped off in the Winnipeg Senior Women’s League where she was a perennial all-star for all 10 years that she played.

Martin Riley

Martin Riley’s high school career at Sisler High School culminated in 1973 when he was the captain of the only varsity boys’ team in Manitoba to finish with a perfect record. After 38 wins and no losses, the Spartans took home the provincial championship and Riley received the prestigious Carl Ridd Award for academic and athletic excellence. Riley’s impressive career continued when he became the first player to ever be named to the Canadian National Team right out of high school.

Riley’s determination and legendary practice regimen served him well as he excelled on both the collegiate and international stages. It was that work ethic that was the driving force behind Riley’s career year in 1976 that saw him play a key role in Canada’s 4th place finish in the Montreal Olympics. In addition to his work with the Canadian National Team, Riley lead the University of Manitoba Bisons to the National Championship, received the Mike Moser Trophy as Canada’s top collegiate player and was also named Manitoba’s Athlete of the Year.

After graduating from the University of Manitoba, Riley would go on to win consecutive Senior Men’s National Championships in 1979 and 1980. In addition to the Senior Men’s Championship in 1980, Riley was the captain of the Canadian Olympic team (that unfortunately did not play due to the boycott of the Moscow Games) and also played professionally in Argentina.

Even after his playing career ended, Riley’s excellence in basketball continued as he focused his attention to coaching. Riley was the head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons from 1980 to 1983 and then head coach at Miles Macdonell where he would lead his team to two provincial AAAA championships. Riley’s most recent endeavour is running the Winnipeg Wolves, a basketball club that he founded.

Dale Bradshaw

Simply put, the basketball landscape in Canada would not be the same were it not for Dale Bradshaw’s consistent dedication to the sport. For over 40 years, “the Dean” has contributed to the development of basketball players in a wide range of roles including coach, mentor, author and instructor.

From a coaching standpoint, few are as decorated as Bradshaw. His list of accomplishments is highlighted by five AAAA Championships with the Dakota Collegiate Varsity Boys, nine medals from Western and National Championships and two stints as Assistant Coach of the Canadian National Men’s Team. Away from the court, Bradshaw has shared his knowledge of the game while serving as President of the Manitoba Basketball Coaches Association and by authoring a series of textbooks titled “Team Concepts in Basketball”.

1973 Sisler Spartans

In all the years before them and the 38 years since, there has never been a high school basketball team in Manitoba like the 1973 Varsity Boys Sisler Spartans. Led by coach Gary Grubert and future collegiate and international-star Martin Riley, the 1973 Sisler Spartans enjoyed a perfect season of 38 wins and no losses. In addition to Riley, the team was stacked with several players who would go on to enjoy successful collegiate and coaching careers.

From Bradshaw to Pangos, from past greats to future stars there is so much that has and will shape the Canadia basketball landscape. As March passes and another basketball season comes to a close in Canada we can look back at a storied history and relish the moments to come.

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