It’s no secret that there’s been an significant increase to the amount of Canadian content in U.S. college basketball over the past 10 years, and after Anthony Bennett became the only Canuck to ever be chosen first overall in the NBA Draft last season, the sport’s popularity is at an all-time high north of the border.
Most notably, Canadians such as Andrew Wiggins and sharpshooter Nik Stauskas have earned the highest praise. But contrary to popular belief and numerous projections, Iowa State‘s Melvin Ejim may be the real prize in this group on the day of the draft.
On Saturday, Ejim and the Cyclones took down fellow Canadian Brady Heslip and the Baylor Bears to earn the program’s first Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship since 2000, just 24 hours after defeating Wiggins and the mighty Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinals on Friday.
Statistically speaking, Ejim’s 10 points were well below his team-leading average of 18.1 PPG against Baylor, but the talented senior contributed with another well-rounded outing that also included nine rebounds, three steals and even three assists.
As a freshman in 2010-11, the native of Toronto made an immediate impression on the staff at Iowa State with his ability to effect the game without having to score in double-digits, a rare talent in today’s world of college basketball. After hovering around an average of 10 points a game his first three seasons as a member of the Cyclones however, Ejim has nearly doubled his offensive output as a senior and has consistently been Iowa State’s leading rebounder all year.
During a five-game stretch in conference play from January 25 through February 8 in which four of the Cyclones’ opponents were ranked in the top-25, Ejim had five consecutive double-doubles, including a season-high with 48 points and 18 boards against Texas Christian University.
As a testament to an impressive senior year in which he also registered averages of 8.5 RPG and shot over 50 percent from the field, Ejim was awarded ”Big 12 Player of The Year” honors earlier in the week after beating out Wiggins, who was named to the All-Conference squad prior to playing a single second of NCAA basketball.
With talented players such as Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Marcus Smart expected to enter the draft at the end of the season, Ejim could easily get lost among the big names if he doesn’t dominate during the upcoming NCAA tournament.
While the spotlight will obviously continue to shine on guys like Parker and Wiggins in these last few months leading up to the draft, Ejim’s size, athleticism, unselfishness and experience make him an intriguing prospect who is clearly ready to compete at the next level.
Ty is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldty