How is it that a city of about only 520,000 people has been able to produce the most active NBAers in Canada?
Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, Melvin Ejim and Sim Bhullar are just a few names that have made their way from Brampton to basketball’s biggest stage, the NBA. It is not an easy question, instead one that is heavily layered and interconnected, showing that foundation, community and vision can make all the difference.
When digging into Brampton’s rich basketball history there is no doubt that the Brampton Warriors program has had a massive effect on the cities basketball production.
In existence since 1978, the Brampton Warriors have been dedicated to educating and motivating each member while encouraging teamwork, sportsmanship and fun through the spirit of basketball.
Avery Brown, the Brampton Warriors V.P. Rep, has seen the game, and the players in city blossom right before his eyes. With solid infrastructure that includes a well-run house league, a JR NBA program, and producing high level rep teams, the Warriors set the foundation for Brampton basketball. Many of the players that make it to the NBA, NCAA or CIS from Brampton have been involved with the Brampton Warriors, at one time or another. But when it pertains to the basketball talent in Brampton, Brown wanted to let me know right off the bat.
“There has never been an influx of talented players in Brampton because the basketball talent has always been here,” Brown refined to me. “The only influx was the migration of many West Torontonians from schools like Martingrove into this hillbilly town, at the time as we knew it, as Brampton, a lo of people were also trying to obtain a Visa for Canada with the best lawyers ”
Omar Miles, head coach at St Edmund Campion for the past 8 years, also reiterates this claim, turning to immigration as the biggest factor to Brampton basketball’s rise.
“Basketball players need a strong athletic demographic, and with West Indies immigrants relocating from places like Malton or Rexdale and schools like Westwood and Morningstar to Brampton that athletic demographic has emerged”, added coach Miles.
This young generation of west Torontonians had dreams of growing up with their own house, own backyard, and own properties. These were dreams that were instilled in them through their immigrant West Indie parents, trying to foster the best they could for their children at the time. But getting a house in Toronto was not in the picture for many young families, unless they had a spare kidney they could sell on the black market. Mississauga was related to Toronto as an up and coming city, a Brooklyn to New York City per say.
So with prices so high, Mississauga was also out of the picture for these new starter families. Thus, Brampton emerged as a perfect place for first time homebuyers. The city was just developing, housing and land prices were relatively low, and there was so much room for expansion within the region.
Along with their families, these west-Torontonians also brought a strong love for the game of basketball to Brampton. These were first generation basketball parents.
17-year D’Youville senior head basketball coach Carlo Zoffranieri also has seen these people take Brampton to the next level, as he credits the clubs and parents as the biggest impact on Brampton basketball culture.
“The parents and adults in the Brampton community have had a strong hand in shaping Brampton’s sports cultures,” said Zoffranieri.
“The countless hours of committed Brampton volunteers have made this transformation possible.”
Coach Miles also adds that the initial generations of Brampton basketball players have come back to the city and are now helping further the game. Along with them they bring a strong university and professional attitude to the development side of the game, and the athletes of whom they come into contact with.
Canada Basketball’s Michael Meeks is a perfect example to what coach Miles stated. As a decorated international professional, Meeks has now brought back what he has learned through his experience, and is applying it as a manager of youth player development for CB. As all sources I spoke to noted, the Brampton community is now becoming a community of generational basketball players, hence raising the bar in the city in terms of IQ, development, and love for the sport.
With the organization of the Brampton Warriors infrastructure, and the mass talent of the kids within Brampton, there now was time for another stage of development.
This phase in the evolution of Brampton basketball came through the establishment of CIA Bounce by co-founders Mike George and Tony McIntyre. McIntyre started with the Blue Devils, but decided to break away from the organization to start his own program. He took three teams with him on his departure and created one of the most successful basketball programs in Canadian basketball history. Through the success of CIA Bounce’s strong all-Canadian teams in American AAU events, national and international exposure was inevitable. The AAU scene was exactly what Brampton basketball needed to evolve, and CIA Bounce was the perfect organization to do it.
The program was able to take these talented Brampton players, and help provide the necessary exposure on the biggest of stages.
“If you look at it from a Brampton level, the training in the summer and AAU tournaments are great,” explained Warriors V.P. Avery Brown. “It improves the plain all around and brings more positive notoriety to our city, and it also trickles down to the generations that are coming up.”
With the exposure these kids now have to actual Brampton NBA players, the next step in the evolution is taking place as more teams start to sprout in the area.
President Donovan Nesbit spearheads Team Breakdown, a group working with young talent in the city, especially at the 2022 class.
Coach Lloyd Dixon, head coach of the aforementioned 2022 Breakdown team, has personally seen the effects of these Brampton NBAers on the new young talent.
“The Brampton NBA guys help the younger generation through the camps that they are running,” said Dixon. “The kids can see them face-to-face, it makes the dream more of a reality.”
With the Toronto Raptors signing Anthony Bennett, the connection between the NBA and the city becomes that much stronger.
With the foundation set, the community rapidly growing, and new visions coming to light, Brampton basketball will never plateau.
The evolution of the game in the city will continue.