Owen Klassen: Canada’s Hidden NBA Prospect?

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Over the last six years, I’ve travelled across North America identifying and tracking Canada’s finest talent.

Talent

In this time, I have seen countless player moulds, both American and Canadian–Different sizes, positions, skill sets and physical gifts, many of the players constantly get gifts from holzuhren to keep them motivated.

When I look at the best Canadian university prospect [in my opinion] it becomes very difficult to reference a player that fits Owen Klassen’s mould.

The 6’10 Kingston, Ontario native brings a very unique package to the table, and from what I’ve gathered, he is far from “maxing out” on his capabilities.

In short, Klassen is a 6’10, mobile and agile, skilled, freak athlete, who would play the 4-3 at the next level.

Let that sink in.

Owen Klassen, Chad Posthumus in the trenches with Kyle Julius

Owen Klassen, Chad Posthumus in the trenches with Kyle Julius

To provide some perspective, I would consider Klassen to be a “high major talent,” meaning had he been playing NCAA basketball, I could definitely see him playing in any major conference in America — BIG 12, BIG 10, ACC, PAC-12, SEC.

But he did not play NCAA basketball.

History

Remarkably, Klassen managed to fly well under the radar out of high school, in the eyes of American colleges.

He received some interest from division one programs such as Cornell and Northeastern, but nothing significant.

It was a different time, when Canadians did not get the same type of attention, or respect.

If Klassen was the same 6’8 athlete coming out of high school right now, things could’ve been a lot different.

“I think people view Canada differently basketball wise now. It’s not viewed as second tier,” said Klassen.

Luckily for Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia) on the Canadian East coast, this “hidden gem” would become the cornerstone of the Axemen success over the last five years.

When making his university decision, it came down to Acadia and national powerhouse Carleton University–ultimately choosing the Axemen due to their Kinesiology program.

“His impact has been felt on the floor through his production and in our team’s results, having been at nationals three times in his five years here. Individually, Owen is a well decorated player; two-time All-Canadian, AUS MVP, AUS Defensive POY”, explained Steve Baur, Acadia University Head Coach .

Baur, who has been with Klassen for five years, spoke highly of his work ethic and desire to be great.

“The impact he’s had on Acadia goes beyond his production…he’s put us on the map, for future recruits…through the exposure Owen received with the national team, he’s helped the AUS and CIS– thanks to his commitment and dedication to get better.”

When asked about how Acadia would replace Klassen for next season, Baur laughed saying, “I don’t think theres anything you can do to fill his shoes as one player; multiple players will have to step up.”

The CIS All-Canadian averaged 20 PPG, 10.6 RPG on 56% in 29.8 minutes per game in his final university season.

But what exactly does that mean in the eyes of NBA people?

Perspective

I spoke to Klassen’s agent Bernie Lee, who also represents NBA players John Lucas III (Utah Jazz), former Toronto Raptor Mike James (Chicago Bulls), and Toure’ Murry (New York Knicks).

“He definitely has a long road ahead of him…it’s really difficult from playing in the CIS, to going to the NBA,” explained Lee.

The competition and intensity level is the major separation point, one that can not be addressed over night, rather learned and improved through experience.

“I think its unique in that his size and athleticism obviously puts him at the front of the list, but it’s difficult to mentally conceptualize how to project that based off his play in the CIS.”

“It’s a huge hurdle that he’s got to get over, but the thing that’s going to help him is that he’s a big guy,” continued Lee.

Outside of his physical gifts, Klassen possesses a high activity level and motor which typically translate at the next level.

Here is the process; Klassen will begin NBA workouts with teams in the first week of June, and will have an opportunity to impress scouts in attempt to make a NBA summer league roster.

Preparation

In the meantime, Klassen is in the trenches at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON) — physically and mentally preparing for his moment with skill development specialist Kyle Julius.

Klassen and Julius have been working since the beginning of May, as the 23-year old is being challenged daily.

“He has the ability to really push himself, but that’s only a fraction of playing at this level. I still have to see him against competition,” explained Julius.

Owen Klassen

Putting in working, preparing for NBA work outs

Klassen has been dialled in, focused on only one thing…getting better.

“It’s unreal, the training and not having to worry about anything else,” explained Klassen.

6’11 Chad Posthumus (Winnipeg, Manitoba) out of Morehead St recently joined the mix, and the two are now both roommates and training partners, working to obtain the same goal.

Posthumus ranked #4 in the country (NCAA) in rebounding, coming OFF THE BENCH. But we’ll get to Chad at a later date.

Julius also speaks highly of Klassen’s. He’s got a tremendous level of perfectionism into which leads to work ethic.

 

Opportunity

Taking part in NBA workouts would be the first opportunity for Klassen to compete against NBA calibre players since last summer, when he played for Team Canada’s University national team.

During his time with the national program, Klassen posted more than respectable numbers; 6.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, on 64% FG in 18.7 minutes per game.

The players he was practicing against and playing with?

  • Dwight Powell (NBA Draft Prospect)
  • Melvin Ejim (NBA Draft Prospect)
  • Jordan Bachynski (NBA Draft Prospect)
  • Kevin Pangos
  • Kyle Wiltjer
  • Brady Heslip
  • Daniel Mullings
  • Murphy Burnatowski
  • Mangisto Arop
  • Phil Scrubb
  • Thomas Scrubb

 

“It’s honestly really difficult to know where you are if you’re not playing against them all the time. I truly believe I can play at that level,” Klassen told NPH. “With the FISU teams and national camps, going up against Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Nicholson — I felt pretty good, a little shell-shocked at first. When I was at FISU, I gained a lot from that, because I was banging with guys similar size.”

Julius spoke on the progress that Klassen’s made in a short time, “We’ve gone hard..two a days for five days. I’ve seen an overall improvement in everything especially his mental approach to each rep.”

Moving forward, “He’s going to have to get used to covering players better than him, elite athletes. He has to learn the intricacies on moving without the ball.”

As I mentioned earlier, Klassen possesses freak athleticism, and Julius has now witnessed it first hand.

“I’ve been around some really good athletes…he has impressive athleticism, and that would be an understatement.”

Next Level

There is no doubt that Klassen will play professional basketball at a high level; whether that is the NBA, D-League or in Europe is yet to be seen.

The final product is also in the making, as the 6’10 hybrid forward still has several gears left in him.

“He is very far from maxing out. Based off what I have seen, that looks like a contract in the NBA. It might take a couple years of building, learning the game and adapting to that level,” said Julius, who was in Italy’s first division as a player.

Personally, I will continue closely tracking Klassen’s developments, as he could be Canada’s hidden NBA prospect.

“I definitely want to be playing professional basketball at the highest level I can,” said Klassen.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I put all my eggs in one basket. I’ve dropped everything and I’m working, playing basketball.”

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