Guard scores 16 points in 25 minutes
For a large duration of its existence, Ashton Smith had been the driving force of Canada's Court.
The KW Titans guard's play-making, handles and electric drives to the hoop enthralled NBLC fans making his weekly addition undeniable.
That was all momentarily put on hold however on Feb. 21 when the point guard was sidelined for a five-game absence.
Given just limited minutes in his return on March 3, week 17 saw the guard look more like the Smith of old as he notched 16 points, four rebounds and five assists in his lone match.
Yet with so many other Canadians finding their grooves during his absence, it may indeed be a tall order for the explosive dynamo to overtake the crown before the season's end.
1. Jamal Reynolds (Pickering, ONT.)
Team: Cape Breton Highlanders (17-18)
LW RANK: 1
Stats this week: 22.5 points per game (50 per cent field goal shooting), 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two games played
Season stats: 17.5 points per game (52.9 per cent field goal shooting), 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Maybe head coach Bernardo Fitz-Gonzalez was reading along.
Last week Canada's Court lamented the lack of extended minutes Jamal Reynolds had received given the Cape Breton Highlanders' recent situation with Bruce Massey.
Well, that changed in week 17 with the forward seeing 30-plus minutes in consecutive matches for the first time in nearly a month.
The Pickering-native – perhaps unexpectedly - did not disappoint as he averaged a huge double-double with 22.5 points per game and 10 rebounds for the week.
Outside of his most obvious contributions in points, rebounds and shot-making - where he ranks tenth, fourth and sixth in the league respectively, Reynolds provides significant auxiliary benefits with prolonged floor time.
The most blatant one comes in the form of free-throws as the tweener routinely puts opposing teams in foul trouble, by extension providing easier baskets for his club.
Case in point: he went 21-of-22 (95.45 per cent) from the charity stripe in week 17.
In fact when looking at the league leaders in free-throws attempted per match, Reynolds remains No.1 with 8.2.
Behind him is former teammate Massey at 7.4 with only one other Highlander amongst the top-50 in the individual league leaders (Chris Johnson at No.15 with 3.7).
Every other team in the league has at least three active players within said list, meaning with Massey's departure leaving such a gaping hole in the Highlanders' attacking game, Reynolds has all the more reason to see 30-plus minutes from here on out.
2. Junior Cadougan (North York, ONT.)
Team: St. John's Edge (19-15)
LW RANK: 2
Stats this week: Nine points (two-of-seven field goal shooting), six rebounds, 12 assists, one game played
Season stats: 13.6 points per game (48.2 per cent field goal shooting), four rebounds, 4.4 assists
Junior Cadougan may be mired in one of his worst shooting funks of the season but that hasn't stopped the point guard from contributing to his team's success.
Having gone a combined six-of-22 from the floor in his past three matches, the St. John's Edge player has instead focused his energy on the backboard and facilitating for others.
In week 17 the North York-native dished out a season-high 12 assists to go along with six rebounds and nine points versus the Cape Breton Highlanders.
And although Cadougan was indeed held to single-digit scoring for the third consecutive game – something that has not occurred in over three months - it has now been successive weeks in which the six-foot-two guard has set season-best marks in other categories (i.e. assists and rebounds).
That exemplifies not only a well-rounded player but also a great leader not willing to accept or settle when things aren't going in his favour.
Now if the University of Marquette alumnus can find his stroke again, we might be looking at Cadougan's best version of himself yet.
3. Tyrrel Tate (Calgary, ALTA.)
Team: Windsor Express (17-15)
LW RANK: 5
Stats this week: 17 points (40 per cent field goal shooting), three rebounds, two assists, one game played
Season stats: 14.4 points per game (48.6 per cent field goal shooting), 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Although Tyrrel Tate may have logged nearly identical time on the floor from week 16, the Albertan was visibly more aggressive this time around as he launched up fifteen shots in 27 minutes, resulting in 17 points.
The shooting percentage wasn't ideal as Tate only went six-of-15 (40 per cent) in his lone match of week 17 - a 147-124 blowout win versus the Halifax Hurricanes – but it is clear at this point the Windsor Express player's purpose is to get buckets; he's only registered five or more rebounds and/or assists on nine out of a possible 50 opportunities (25 games played).
Nonetheless, Tate is on his second longest double-digit scoring streak of the season with five consecutive outings to his name currently.
And with the Express having a favourably spaced out schedule for week 18 (six days rest before its next match and then a three-day break following), conditions are in Tate's favour for a couple of 20-point scoring efforts.
4. Ashton Smith (Scarborough, ONT.)
Team: KW Titans (15-19)
LW RANK: Unranked
Stats this week: 16 points per game (58.3 per cent field goal shooting), four rebounds, five assists, one game played
Season stats: 13.9 points per game (50.7 per cent field goal shooting), 4.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists
Since Ashton Smith's last appearance on Canada's Court in week 14, the point guard has seen his numbers drop across the board as he continues to work his way back from a five-game absence.
Week 17 marked the first time the Pickering-native played above 20 minutes since Feb.17 as he was held to just eight minutes in his return on March 3.
Signs were positive however as Smith dropped 16 points, four rebounds and five assists on an efficient seven-of-12 (58.3 per cent) shooting from the floor against the Hurricanes on March 10.
Indeed Smith did come off the bench for the second consecutive game but with the KW Titans' playoff hopes on life support, it's imperative the six-foot-two guard be let loose the rest of the way.
It's do-or-die time for both Smith (Canadian of the Year honours) and the Titans (postseason).
5. Garrett Williamson (Lower Merion, PA.)
Team: London Lightning (19-16)
LW RANK: Unranked
Stats this week: Eight points (75 per cent field goal shooting), three rebounds, two assists, one game played
Season stats: 14.9 points per game (51 per cent field goal shooting), 4.8 rebounds, four assists
With the Island Storm's Guillaume Boucard and Alex Campbell out of action for the week, Garrett Williamson in many ways returns to Canada's Court through default rather than merit.
Indeed the London Lightning player's season stats remain formidable especially at 14.9 points per game (nineteenth in the NBLC) and four assists (tenth in the NBLC) but the American – Canadian has been noticeably subdued during the Bolts' seven-game winning streak.
In fact during that stretch Williamson has averaged only 10 points, 3.57 rebounds and 4.14 assists on 44 per cent shooting – nearly all down (exception assists) from his season marks of 15, five and four on 51 per cent accuracy.
It isn't that Williamson – who was held to single-digit scoring for the second consecutive game – is necessarily playing bad.
Instead it appears the starting guard has simply settled into a reduced role, leading to immense team success in the process.
And with so many other Canadians seemingly hitting their stride and expanding their games in the last few months (e.g. Boucard, Smith, Chris Johnson) it will be difficult for the Bolts' player to remain with his diminished dependence becoming more apparent each game.
Chris Johnson, Cape Breton Highlanders (North Preston, N.S.)
13.1 points per game (40.8 per cent field goal shooting), 3.9 rebounds, two assists