NCAA Sweet 16: Canadians still in contention

Eight Canadians, including some prominent players, still have a shot at winning a U.S. collegiate title as the NCAA men's basketball tournament's Sweet Sixteen round tips off Thursday night.

Stauskas, Ejim were named top players in respective conferences

Three-point sharpshooter Nik Stauskas has helped power Michigan into the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

High-profile players Andrew Wiggins of the Kansas Jayhawks and Tyler Ennis of the Syracuse Orange departed the NCAA men's basketball tournament last week, but several key Canadians remain in the mix for a U.S. collegiate title as the round of 16 tips off Thursday night.

It's a guarantee that Canadian content will appear in the so-called "Elite Eight" as the Stanford-Dayton matchup features Canucks on each side.

Here's the Canadian scorecard:

No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton — South Region, Thursday

Stefan Nastic, Centre, Stanford

Age: 21

Class: Junior

Journey to the tourney: Born in Serbia, was a very young age when family moved to Toronto area. Played for Thornhill (Ont.) Secondary School. Dual citizen has represented Serbia at FIBA tournaments.

Season: An afterthought the previous two seasons, the six-foot-11 Nastic blossomed this season with 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, in 19 minutes of game time on average.

Tournament: Nearly identical stats in wins over New Mexico and Kansas, scoring 10 points in each game while averaging 4.5 rebounds.

Dwight Powell, Forward, Stanford

Age: 22

Class: Senior

Journey to the tourney:  Born in Toronto, played at Earl Haig Secondary School before taking a scholarship offer from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Season: After a leap forward in his junior year, maintained that standard by averaging 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Tournament: 6-foot-10 big man shook off a bad outing against the Lobos (0-for-8 shooting, 3 points) by rising to the occasion against No. 2 Kansas, leading the Cardinal with 15 points to go along with seven rebounds, a steal and a block.

Dyshawn Pierre, Forward, Dayton

Age: 20

Class: Sophomore

Journey to the tourney: Born in Whitby, Ont., led that city's Anderson Collegiate to consecutive provincial championships. Product of the CIA Bounce program, which has also featured Ennis and Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers last year.

Season: 6-foot-6 forward progressed offensively in his second season, putting up an average of 11.2 points to go along with 5.7 assists.

Tournament: Has played even above his fine season form, averaging 13 points and seven rebounds as the Flyers posted the first big upset of the tournament, over Ohio State, followed by the surprise that sent Syracuse's Ennis out of the tournament.

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 2 Wisconsin — West Region, Thursday

Kenny Chery, Guard, Baylor

Age: 22

Class: Junior

Journey to the tourney: Born to Haitian parents in Montreal, played at Jeanne Mance before heading to Archbishop Carroll High in Washington. From there, two seasons at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., before heading to Texas.

Season: In addition to 11.7 points per game, led the team with 4.8 assists and an .880 free throw percentage. The Bears are 12-2 since the 5-foot-11 Chery returned from injury in February.

Tournament: After a modest 2-for-7 outing with eight points against Nebraska, drained four three-pointers in drubbing of Creighton, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Brady Heslip, Guard, Baylor

Age: 22

Class: Senior

Journey to the tourney: Heslip's journey began with a bit of genetic predisposition. His father, Tom, was a basketball star for the Guelph Gryphons, and mom Jody is the sister of Jay Triano, former coach of the Raptors. Heslip played secondary school ball with Assumption and Nelson in Burlington, Ont., and transferred to Baylor after a season at Boston College. 

Season: Was second on the team with 11.9 points per game and a healthy .468 clip

Tournament: After a poor shooting effort against Nebraska (10 of his 12 points came at the line), poured in 17 points thanks to 5-for-7 outing beyond the three-point line against Creighton.

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee — Midwest Region, Friday

Nik Stauskas, Guard, Michigan

Age: 20

Class: Sophomore

Journey to the tourney: Born to parents of Lithuanian descent in Mississauga, Ont., played locally at Loyola Secondary before heading south to finish out his high school career. St. Mark's in Southborough, Mass., proved a home after a stint at a school in South Kent, Ct., wasn't a fit. Backyard video of Stauskas draining threes travelled virally, attracting the attention of hundreds of thousands, including NBA sharpshooter Steph Curry.

Season: After solid freshman season averaging 11 points, Stauskas kicked it up to earn Big Ten player of the year honours. shooting guard amassed 17.4 points per game with 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds.

Tournament: Warmed up with 15 points against overmatched Wofford and followed up with 17 points and eight boards to help Wolverines get past Texas Longhorns.

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut — East Region, Friday

Melvin Ejim, Forward, Iowa State

Age: 23

Class: Senior

Journey to the tourney: Born to Nigerian parents, grew up in Brampton, Ont., and played there at St. Augustine before honing his game at prep schools in Leonardtown, Md., and Wolfeboro, N.H.

Season: 6-foot-6 Ejim was named Big 12 conference player of the year after racking up 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. Set a conference record in late-season game against Texas Christian by pouring in 48 points.

Tournament: No drop off in his performance through two games in the tournament, with an average of 18 points and six rebounds. He's even canned three shots from three-point land.

Naz Long, Guard, Iowa State

Age: 20

Class: Sophomore

Journey to the tourney: Stints at schools in Rockville, Md., and Henderson, Nev., sandwiched by turns in his hometown of Mississauga, Ont., at Father Goetz and St. Martin.

Season: After getting meagre minutes as a freshman, 6-foot-4 Long became a core Cyclone this season, averaging seven points and 20 minutes per outing. Has been in double figures five times since Feb. 15.

Tournament: Long wasn't a factor in tournament opener against North Carolina Central, but hit two of his four three-pointers late for a dozen points as Iowa State edged the Tar Heels.


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