As the NBLC continues to grow and evolve, so too incresases the number of skilled homegrown players looking for opportunities in professional basketball. With two Canadian head coaches battling it out in the finals for a championship for the first time in league history, there's no question that opportunities abound. As the only national professional basketball league in Canada, the NBLC is proud to provide so many deserving athletes and those chasing a passion a place to pursue their dreams.
More than 30 Canadian university alumni competed in NBLC during 2016-17, a cross-country collection of talent that includes players from nearly 20 schools representing all four U Sports conferences (Canada West, OUA, RSEQ, and AUS).
Over the course of the season, all 10 NBLC teams employed at least one U Sports grad, often having multiple Canadian university products on the active roster simultaneously. Many of these players had significant roles on their respective teams, particularly former Ottawa Gee-Gee Terry Thomas, who was named NBLC Canadian Player of the Year award after a standout season with the Island Storm.
This theme has continued into the 2017 NBLC post-season, where the Finals feature four Canadian university grads on the active rosters of London and Halifax.
Here is a look at six standout U Sports alumni from the 2016-17 NBLC season:
Joel Friesen (Alberta)
36 gp, 11.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Friesen was one of the league's top perimeter scorers, shooting 75/174 from the outside to lead the Lightning and rank second in the NBLC with a .431 three-point percentage. He hit at least four treys on nine occasions, including five games with five triples. Friesen also averaged 1.25 steals per game.
Shaquille Kieth (Cape Breton)
Windsor Express/Cape Breton Highlanders
38 gp, 12.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.8 apg
Keith started 2016-17 in Cape Breton, where he averaged 15.3 points and had 22 steals in 20 games before being dealt to Windsor. He played 18 regular season games for the Express, averaging 9.7 points while making 18 of 37 shots from downtown for a team-best .486 three-point percentage.
Terry Thomas (Ottawa)
32 gp, 18.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.0 apg
Thomas ranked second on the Storm in scoring and led the team with 217 rebounds. His 67 steals was also a team-best, and his average of 2.09 takeaways per game was second best in the NBLC. Thomas was named Atlantic Division Player of the Week for Feb. 5 after totalling 51 points in two games.
Jameson Tipping (Brock)
36 gp, 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
Tipping won the season's final Central Division Player of the Week award after hitting four three-pointers in the fourth quarter of Orangeville's playoff-clinching win. For the season, he shot 77 of 209 from the outside, ranking first on the A's and 12th in the NBLC in three-pointers made.
Warren Ward (Ottawa)
40 gp, 14.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
Ward played in every game for the Express, and was among the league leaders in minutes played with 1,234. His 107 three-pointers made were tied for third most in the NBLC regular season. Ward scored double-figures in 22 of the first 23 games on Windsor's schedule.
Ta'Quan Zimmerman (Thompson Rivers)
40 gp, 10.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg
Zimmerman was one of two players to appear in every regular season game for the Hurricanes. He led Halifax with 78 three-pointers made while shooting .370% from the outside. Zimmerman had 130 assists and committed just 46 turnovers to rank seventh in the NBLC with a 2.83 ratio.