With 22 players born north of the border participating in the 2017 edition of March Madness, Canada is well represented at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. But after the tournament’s opening weekend, no Canadian has stood out from the pack quite like Mississauga, Ontario native Dillon Brooks.
The junior forward, who entered the tournament as the highest profile Canadian prospect, enjoyed a fantastic 2016-17 campaign with Oregon, proving that he’s one of college basketball’s elite scorers. While averaging 16.3 points per game — shooting better than 50 per cent from the field and over 40 per cent from the 3-point line — the 6-foot-7 Brooks led the Ducks to a Pac-12 Conference regular season championship.
Prior to the tournament, the 21-year-old swingman was viewed by most experts as an early second round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. But with strong showings so far in the tournament, the reigning Pac-12 Conference player of the year is surely hoping to improve his stock.
Though the Ducks’ first opponent was an overmatched Iona squad, Brooks’ talent and efficiency were on full display. The junior scored 18 points in just 30 minutes, shooting above 50 per cent from the field while knocking down two 3-pointers and collecting two highlight reel blocks.
But Brooks’ tournament was just getting started. The veteran collegiate star put up an even better showing in his second game against Rhode Island, leading Oregon’s second-half comeback and playing a vital role in the Ducks avoiding an early upset. In spite of having an off night from the perimeter, Brooks connected on a 3-pointer with under five minutes to play, giving Oregon its first lead in the second half. But it was his gutsy play on the defensive end, taking a charge with under two minutes remaining to disrupt Rhode Island’s late rally, that sealed Oregon’s 75-72 win.
Boasting a resume that appears to have all the requirements to garner significant attention in the NBA draft, Brooks is hoping to be the latest in a growing trend of Canadian first-round draft picks. Since 2011, at least one Canadian has been selected in the first round of the NBA draft — seven drafted with a lottery pick — while an additional four have been selected in the second round.
Yet despite having a sharpshooter’s pedigree and the ability to deliver in the clutch, Brooks is still widely considered a potential second-round pick. One major factor that appears to be barring him from the first round is his age; at 21 years old Brooks is still relatively young, but in a draft that will potentially feature outstanding freshman talent — 12 of the top 13 prospects are first year players — drafting an older player such as Brooks becomes slightly less appealing.
Making matters worse, an NBA coach might find it difficult to play Brooks at small forward, where his lack of elite athleticism and quickness will likely make it tough to guard more dynamic players. And when you consider Brooks’ poor rebounding numbers, it’s equally as hard to envision the sharp shooter as a stretch four when he transitions to the pro game.
With these shortcomings in mind, we’ll have to see if Brooks can continue to bolster his stock as his Ducks continue their pursuit of the NCAA Championship. If Brooks hopes to continue the streak of Canadians selected in the first round, another heroic showing may be necessary for him to be in the conversation.