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Rautins and Donohue decry the state of Canadian basketball

In 1891 at a YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., a Canadian athletic instructor invented a simple game involving a ball tossed into a peach basket. It would take nearly a century for basketball to gain worldwide prominence and develop its own culture, fashion and vibe. Along the way, Canadians have played a huge role in popularizing the sport, on the street, in gyms and in the professional ranks.

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"Not one school talked to me," says Leo Rautins. Despite being widely considered the best basketball player Canada has ever produced, the young hoops star says no universities in his home country show any interest in recruiting him. In this 1979 CBC Radio clip from Sound of Sports, Rautins despairs about the state of basketball development in Canada. "I had a lot of publicity last year I guess, and I guess they just read all that and they figured why try (to compete against U.S. schools) and that's one reason they'll never be up to par," he says of Canadian collegiate programs, though he holds out hope that things will change. Jack Donohue, the coach of Canada's national team, understands these sentiments and expresses his own impatience at the lack of development. But he's upbeat about the national team's prospects going into training camp. "We will have more good basketball players at the training camp than we've ever had at a camp before in Canada."
• Leo Rautins was the first Canadian to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, selected 17th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. Knee injuries contributed to a disappointing NBA career that lasted just two years between Philadelphia, Indiana and Atlanta. He played another seven years of professional basketball in Europe before retiring in 1992 after his 14th knee operation.
• Rautins spent the first year of his U.S. college career at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Syracuse University for three years. He had great success as a member of the Orangemen, averaging 12.1 points, 5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. In 2009, Leo's son Andy was a senior on the Syracuse men's basketball team.

• He was a high school star at St. Michael's College in Toronto, his hometown.

• In 2005, Rautins became the coach of the Canadian national team. As of 2009, he was also a TV analyst for the Toronto Raptors.

• Jack Donohue led the Canadian men's basketball team for 17 seasons, from 1972-88. His teams competed in four Olympic Games and pulled off two fourth place finishes, in 1976 and 1984. From 1959 to 1965, Donohue coached Power Memorial Academy in New York City, his hometown. He had a career won-loss record of 163-30 and won 71 straight games with star centre Lew Alcindor, who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

• Donohue then coached at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. from 1965-72, compiling a record of 106-66. He died in 2003 in Ottawa. Donohue is enshrined in the Canadian, Ontario and New York basketball halls of fame.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sound of Sports
Broadcast Date: April 22, 1979
Guests: Jack Donohue, Leo Rautins
Host: George Offman
Reporter: Tom McKee
Duration: 10:40

Last updated: July 2, 2014

Page consulted on July 2, 2014

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