TRY­ING TO GET TO NEXT LEVEL

Hur­dles await for lo­cal hoop stars

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - GORD HOLDER gholder@ot­tawac­i­t­i­zen.com Twit­ter.com/Hold­erGord

On the Mon­day af­ter the Car­leton Ravens won an­other na­tional cham­pi­onship, Thomas Scrubb com­pleted a course as­sign­ment that was due the next day.

Be­fore he starts putting his MBA to good use, though, Scrubb wants a shot at pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball. The only ques­tion is where, just as it's a ques­tion for Johnny Ber­hanemeskel of the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa Gee- Gees and par­tic­u­larly so for Scrubb's younger brother, Philip.

Their re­sumés sparkle. With the Ravens, the Scrubbs won five Cana­dian In­teruni­ver­sity Sport ti­tles while Thomas was twice named top de­fen­sive player and Philip is the only three-time win­ner of the player of the year award. Ber­hanemeskel re­ceived that same hon­our for his fi­nal sea­son, when he be­came just the third On­tario univer­sity bas­ket­ball player to reach 2,000 ca­reer points.

“I want to play, that's for sure,” Philip Scrubb says. “I don't know ex­actly where. It's tough to know now since we haven't talked to any­one. Ob­vi­ously I want to play in the high­est league I can, so, if it means NBA or Europe or what­ever, I guess the best league I can play in is where I would like to play.”

The mere men­tion of “NBA” will start some eyes rolling and heads shak­ing given that 32 sea­sons have passed since for­mer Lake­head Univer­sity cen­tre Jim Zoet be­came the last CIS alum­nus to play in that league and 20 drafts have been con­ducted since St. Mary's' Will Njoku was se­lected in the sec­ond round by the Detroit Pis­tons. All of the dozen or so Cana­di­ans in the NBA this sea­son came through U.S. col­lege pro­grams.

Even so, Philip Scrubb held his own as the Ravens went 15-17 against U.S. op­po­nents in non­con­fer­ence games over the past five years.

“I have talked with mul­ti­ple (NBA) teams about their in­ter­est in him play­ing on their sum­mer­league team,” Ravens head coach Dave Smart says. “I wouldn't say it's go­ing to be pick-and-choose by any means, but there's enough in­ter­est that he's go­ing to find a ros­ter.”

To war­rant even a free-agent con­tract of­fer, Scrubb would have to per­form well dur­ing a “try­out” dur­ing the sum­mer league, said Smart, who is also an as­sis­tant to na­tional team head coach Jay Tri­ano. He added that Scrubb could cer­tainly play in the af­fil­i­ated NBA D-League, but that may not be a great op­tion “un­less the NBA team has plans of bring­ing you up as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Leo Rautins, a TV an­a­lyst for Toronto Rap­tors games and for­mer NBA player, agrees the 6-3 guard from Rich­mond, B.C., could be in­vited to sum­mer league or train­ing camp, but doesn't ex­pect him to make a ros­ter.

“A lot of guys who are stars or key play­ers in small-col­lege sit­u­a­tions strug­gle when they don't have the ball in their hands as much,” Rautins says.

Tri­ano is also an as­sis­tant coach for the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers, so NBA rules pro­hibit him from

They’ve played against NBA type play­ers, and they have rep­re­sented Canada ex­tremely well.

com­ment­ing on where draftel­igi­ble play­ers might go, but he gives the Scrubbs credit for their ef­forts with the na­tional team.

They've re­ceived great coach­ing at Car­leton, Tri­ano says, “but they also have the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally them­selves. They have seen some of the top play­ers in the world, played against some of the top play­ers in the world, who are in a lot of cases NBA play­ers.

“We played Slove­nia, who had Go­ran Dragic (of the Mi­ami Heat) on their team, and we played Ser­bia, who had (Phoenix Suns firstround pick Bog­dan) Bog­danovic. They've played against NBA-type play­ers, and they have rep­re­sented Canada ex­tremely well.”

Tri­ano says the Scrubbs should be part of the na­tional pro­gram for years to come and are among four or five cur­rent or past CIS play­ers in a pool of 25-30 ath­letes un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for the Cana­dian bas­ket­ball team for this sum­mer's Pan Am Games. That num­ber is fairly large be­cause con­tract sit­u­a­tions and sum­mer league com­mit­ments may make some NBA play­ers un­avail­able.

There are more pro bas­ket­ball leagues in the world than just the NBA or NBA D-League, of course, which is where the fact Lloyd Scrubb was born in Bri­tain could ben­e­fit his sons: Philip and Thomas have dual cit­i­zen­ship and wouldn't be sub­ject to the im­port re­stric­tions of Euro­pean leagues.

“That helps,” says Thomas, a 6-6 for­ward who turns 24 in April. “We won't be up against all the other Amer­i­cans and other Cana­dian guys.”

Ber­hanemeskel's an­ces­try is African, but the 6-2 shoot­ing guard's pass­port reads “Cana­dian,” so he would be sub­ject to those im­port rules.

“Sev­eral agen­cies have mes­saged me dur­ing the year and wanted to talk to me about my fu­ture, and I kind of just pushed it away un­til the end of the sea­son,” says Ber­hanemeskel, whose Gee-Gees lost the past two CIS fi­nals to the Ravens. “Now that the sea­son is done, we're go­ing to get into things and start deal­ing with that. I'm hop­ing that (the Moser award) will help the re­sumé a lit­tle bit.”

Over the past decade or so, sev­eral ex-Ravens and a smaller num­ber of for­mer Gee-Gees have played pro bas­ket­ball in Europe and else­where. Smart says the key is what each player brings to the ta­ble in style of play and “fit”.

“Tommy has been that 'do ev­ery­thing' guy for us for six years, and both of them have been with the na­tional pro­gram and have shown they can help a team in a num­ber of ways,” Smart says. “I think they're both set up to be suc­cess­ful pros right away.”

Rowan Bar­rett, Canada Bas­ket­ball's ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of the se­nior men's na­tional team, says Philip Scrubb has the skill, bas­ket­ball IQ, com­pet­i­tive in­stinct and phys­i­cal length NBA teams seek in point guards, but he'd have to prove his worth in sum­mer league and pre-draft work­outs.

Bar­rett de­scribes Thomas Scrubb as “a late bloomer” who will find work in pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball.

“As with Phil,” Bar­rett says, "you just do not want to limit play­ers like that and tell them they can't play in the NBA or tell them they're go­ing to have to play in Europe.

“Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble.”

 FRANK GUNN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ot­tawa Gee Gees’ Johnny Ber­hanemeskel is only the third On­tario univer­sity bas­ket­ball player to reach 2,000 points, and is look­ing into pro bas­ket­ball op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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