Krzyzewski, Williams watching Canadian 'invasion' of NCAA with interest - InfoNews

Current Conditions

9.5°C

Krzyzewski, Williams watching Canadian 'invasion' of NCAA with interest

Duke forward RJ Barrett shoots during an NCAA men's college basketball practice in Washington, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Duke plays Virginia Tech in an East Regional semifinal game on Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
March 28, 2019 - 9:10 PM

WASHINGTON - Count Mike Krzyzewski and Buzz Williams among those watching the rise of Canada's basketball talent with great interest. Both coaches will have an impact Canadian on the floor when Duke and Virginia Tech meet in a regional semifinal Friday at the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The Blue Devils' roster includes freshman R.J. Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., a projected top-five pick in this year's NBA draft, while the Hokies have sophomore Toronto guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who had a team-leading 20 points in Virginia Tech's tournament-opening win over Saint Louis.

They are just two of the 24 Canadians on the rosters when the tournament started, and Krzyzewski and Williams have taken notice.

"It's been like an invasion of talent. And not just of talent but character," Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke coach, said Thursday. "Fantastic, just fantastic. We're getting so many more players from Canada in the NBA and in the NCAA."

Said Williams: "They're everywhere now. Canada has just become another place that's populated with really good players that everybody in the country is recruiting."

Barrett has thrived at Duke despite playing in the shadow of teammate and consensus first-overall pick Zion Williamson. Barrett, who set an ACC freshman single-season scoring record with 821 points, had the winning basket in Duke's nervy 77-76 second-round win over UCF on Sunday when he corralled the rebound on a Williamson free-throw miss and scored.

"R.J. can be as good as anybody coming from Canada," Krzyzewski said. "Again, he should still be in high school. He reclassified. And for him to have the maturity and talent to play at this level and what he's done, he's scored about 800 points. And he's been with us the whole time. He's the one kid that hasn't been injured."

Alexander-Walker, the first cousin of Los Angeles Clippers rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, has also impressed with his college squad, averaging 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season.

"It's definitely great going up against Nickeil, growing up playing against each other and definitely showing that Canada has some good players and that we're on the rise," Barrett said.

Williams spoke highly of Alexander-Walker's character and commitment to the program.

"I think the thing about Nickeil and how his mom raised him, he's very pure. He has a lot more wisdom than his age belies," Williams said. "And I think that he really respected what we were trying to do at Virginia Tech and he had admiration for how hard it was going to be. And that was the attraction to him for him.

"He was willing to step in to a situation that was building instead of maybe going somewhere where it had already been built. And I think that allure was really important for his experience."

Virginia Tech posted a 77-72 win when these teams last met in February, thought Duke was missing Williamson to a highly publicized knee sprain suffered when his shoe exploded during a game.

Now healthy, the hulking Williamson will command most of the attention in Friday's game. But if Barrett feels he's being overshadowed by the star freshman, he is not letting on.

"It's definitely a lot of fun playing with him," Barrett said. "He does some amazing stuff. In the UCF game, I think somebody was guarding me, I couldn't see. I just threw the ball up anywhere and he just jumped up and got it.

"And he does so many things on the court that people don't really appreciate enough. But definitely fun guy to be around."

The Hokies also have another Toronto native on their roster in Jonathan Kabongo.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR CLARKE

Gonzaga star Brandon Clarke won another battle of Canadians in the opening game of the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Clarke, who was born in Vancouver and raised in Arizona, had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks as top-seeded Gonzaga beat No. 4 Florida State 72-58 in Anaheim, Calif.

Florida State's Mfiondu Kabengele of Burlington, Ont., had eight points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Clarke has been one of the stars of the tournament, scoring a Gonzaga tournament record 36 points last week in a win over Baylor.

OVER AND OUT

Tennessee senior forward Kyle Alexander, a native of Milton, Ont., saw his NCAA career come to an end on Thursday night.

Alexander had nine points and eight rebounds as second-seeded Tennessee lost 99-94 to No. 3 Purdue in Louisville, Ky.

Meanwhile, Ignas Brazdeikis of Oakville, Ont., also was knocked out of the tournament as No. 2 seed Michigan lost 63-44 to No. 3 Texas Tech in Anaheim.

Brazdeikis led the Wolverines with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

  • Popular vernon News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile