Jeremy Brooks via flickr.com
As basketball fever heats up, Vancouver Showcase 2018 promises to fuel the excitement.
For the first time in Canadian history, an NCAA basketball tournament is being played north of the 49th with a couple of familiar names on the local hoops scene heading up the organizing team.
Renowned Richmond High grad Ron Putzi and Howard Kelsey, both former national team players, have put together Vancouver Showcase Nov. 18 to 24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Vancouver Showcase features four men’s and eight women’s US Division 1 college basketball teams.
The men’s tournament will feature the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Santa Clara Broncos, Texas AM Aggies and Washington Huskies.
After a berth in the 2017 NCAA tournament, the Gophers are looking to bounce back under the guidance of coach Richard Pitino. They improved 239 spots in the RPI ratings in 2016, the nations biggest turnaround, and are led by 6’7 senior forward Jordan Murphy who averaged 16.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game last season.
Steve Nash’s alma mater, Santa Clara is looking to build on an 8-10 record and is led by senior guard KJ Feagin (17.5 ppg). Josip Vrankic, a 6’8 sophomore forward from Toronto is the lone Canadian in the tournament. He’s one of three returning starters.
The Aggies are led by senior guard Admon gilder who shot 82.1 per cent from the free throw line in his junior season.
Finally, the Huskies open the season ranked among the top 25 in the nation and a pre-season favourite to win the Pac-12 Conference. Leading the way is 6’4 guard Jaylen Nowell (16 ppg).
The women’s tournament features a pair of Bulldogs—Drake and Gonzaga (two-time defending West Coast Conference champions)—as well as East Tennessee State Lady Buccaneers, Oregon State Beavers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, South Carolina Gamecocks, Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers, and defending NCAA champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish (who will tip off tournament play against Gonzaga Nov. 22 at noon).
Drake reached the NCAA championship last year after a 22-game undefeated string. Extremely young, most of their key starters are back including Becca Hittner who as a junior guard averaged 15.7 points per game.
Gonzaga has been to nine straight NCAA tournaments and are coming off 27-6 season. The club returns three starters including Zykera Rice (11.7 ppg).
East Tennessee also had three returning starters including guard Erica Hayes-Overton (14.5 ppg), while Oregon State—which reached the Elite Eight last year for the second time in history—boasts four returning starters including guard Mikayla Pivec.
Led by head coach Vivian Stringer, who is just three wins shy of becoming one of a very few to win 1,000 games, Rutgers has one Canadian on the team in 6’1 sophomore forward Maiel Gilles from Montreal.
South Carolina is coached by three-time Olympic gold medallist Dawn Staley, who is one of the best to ever play the game. This year’s team features returning leading scorer Alexis Jackson at forward.
Western Kentucky returns three starters including C-USA freshman of the year forward Raneen Elgedaway. And Final Four hero Arike Ogunbowale returns as one of four starters to the No. 1 ranked Fighting Irish. She is also a pre-season AP All-American.