The National Basketball Association has seen an impressive influx of Canadian talent in recent years. In fact, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, who were the two most recent number-one NBA draft picks, are both Canadian. Although Wiggins and Bennett are well on their way to becoming household names like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, their success has not been independently attained. Two unsung heroes have played a critical role in helping these star athletes compete in the highest echelon of professional basketball.
Elias and Tariq Sbiet are brothers and founders of North Pole Hoops, a Canadian-based basketball website and scouting agency working with National Collegiate Athletic Association programs; primarily focused on Canadian talent.
Launched in January 2011, North Pole Hoops identifies potential talent and works to find the best possible fit academically and geographically at top-ranking American schools like Duke and UCLA. College basketball is big business in the United States, and for top-flight players, Division I schools can be the gateway to the National Basketball Association.
The pair specializes in monitoring player stats and academic achievements. “Our job, of course, is to identify the information and relay the information to the coaches; provide as much information to the coaches so they are not wasting their time when they arrive to see the player,” says Tariq.
The brothers believe that building a relationship between the player, coaches and parents enables a player to make the best decision in regards to choosing the most suitable school – a process they call “active recruiting.”
Within the last four years, Canada has produced five first-round draft pick selections. Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson has been evaluated and tracked by North Pole Hoops, as has Cory Joseph, who won a championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs this year.
Northpole Hoops has also tracked Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett during their high school years. In 2013, Bennett was selected as the first round number-one draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he was joined this year by fellow Canadian and rising star Andrew Wiggins. In fact, Northpole Hoops has followed the majority of the Canadian talent that was selected in this past years NBA draft. This includes Tyler Ennis, who now plays on the Phoenix Suns, and Nik Stauskas, who was drafted to the Sacramento Kings.
Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, both brothers began as athletes with dreams of making it to the National Basketball Association. They competed at a high school and university level; however, a lack of exposure and recruitment outlets at home hindered their development. Fed up with the situation, the pair decided it was time to take action to help rising Canadian prospects obtain the same exposure extended to our American counterparts.
Elias and Tariq have since traveled across Canada and the United States, tracking down the best in basketball talent. Thanks to the connections they’ve made, North Pole Hoops has created several opportunities for Canadian talent to be exposed to different colleges, universities and potential agents.
Jerome Robinson, a Jamaican-Canadian from Toronto who played six years in Europe as a professional player, believes a lack of athletic culture is largely responsible for the development of talent here at home. “We didn’t have basketball on TV on a consistent basis. We didn’t have any role models, with the exception of Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. Vince Carter was huge for Toronto because we had our own basketball hero in our city,” says Robinson.
The hoop dreams of young Canadian athletes are far less likely to deflate because of North Pole Hoops and other basketball agencies. As North Pole Hoops continue to develop their network with NCAA coaches, scouts and agents, a Canadian presence in the NBA will also continue to be seen and felt and hopefully, in time, flourish. “Imagine we were able to keep our Canadian talent in Canada”, says Elias. “We would have the best talent pools in the world.“