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After three dominant performances to open the Big Blue Bahamas tour, Kentucky will close out the week with a game against our friends from the north.
Team Toronto, a roster that usually boasts the likes of Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, and Dillon Brooks during FIBA events, will be significantly shorthanded in their matchup against Kentucky today. In fact, there’s not even an official roster released to the public to know who will actually show up.
We do know, however, a few talented players expected to participate.
Andrew Nicholson, a former first-round draft selection to the Orlando Magic (No. 19 overall) in 2012, will be the star big man for Toronto this afternoon. With the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, Nicholson averaged 22.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season. Just yesterday, the Fujian Sturgeons of the CBA signed the 28-year-old, so who knows if he’ll actually suit up today or if he is even in the Bahamas anymore. With legitimate NBA talent, the former St. Bonaventure forward will give Kentucky some problems in the frontcourt… if he takes the floor, of course.
Here are his rookie highlights with the Magic in 2012-13:
One Canadian we are certain will play is former South Carolina guard Duane Notice. The former SEC Sixth Man of the Year, who averaged 10.2 points per game as a senior and helped lead the Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017, is the No. 16 all-time scorer at South Carolina with 1,409 total points.
With BM Slam Stal Ostrow, a Polish professional team, Notice averaged 9.29 points, 2.43 rebounds, and 2.57 assists per contest last season.
Here are some of his most recent highlights:
Former Michigan guard Jevohn Shepherd, who currently plays professionally overseas, averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per contest for Elan Chalon last season. Shepherd has played professionally since 2009, and has signed a deal with SLUC Nancy Basket, a French basketball club, for 2018.
He’ll be a go-to offensive weapon for Toronto this afternoon.
There were also reports that former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer would suit up for Toronto, though his newest professional basketball contract agreement limits that reunion from happening. This offseason, the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter signed a one-year deal with Spanish team Unicaja Malaga, and he is currently overseas preparing for the upcoming season. Wiltjer averaged 4.5 points on 42% three-point shooting with Olympiacos, a Greek professional basketball club, last season. He also had stints with the Houston Rockets and several G-League teams after turning pro in 2016.
Beyond the main four players of concern, the rest is a crapshoot. I found this Team Toronto roster on the official EuroBasket website, featuring a few former Division-One players.
None of the players are very recognizable, and just one stands over 6-foot-6…
Ronnie Johnson – 6’0”(Point Guard), played at Auburn
Jonathan Milligan – 6’2”(Guard), played at Pittsburgh
Rozelle Nix – 6’11”(Forward), played at South Alabama
D’Ante Russell-Hall – 6’6” (Forward)
Anthony Duckett – 6’6” (Forward)
Bryce Lienhoop – 6’6” (Forward)
George Diekelman – 6’4” (Guard)
(Warning: the above list could be completely wrong, and there’s a chance none of those players play today. There’s just little-to-nothing on the internet about this team, so I’m working with what I’ve got)
Beyond the players, head coach Roy Rana will be arguably the most important piece for Team Toronto. Rana, who hand-picked this roster, led the 2018-19 U19 Canadian team to the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships. He has also served as head coach of the World Select Team at the Nike Hoop Summit every year since 2011, meaning he has coached the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, RJ Barrett, DeAndre Ayton, Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, and countless others.
He has also been the head coach of the Ryerson University men’s basketball team since 2009.
We don’t know as much about the roster, but we do know they have a guy on the sidelines that can coach at an elite level.
John Calipari said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Kentucky finish 1-3 this week, and though he didn’t admit the one predicted victory, he almost certainly had Team Toronto in mind. Toronto is arguably the weakest opponent Kentucky will face all week, and they’ve played together significantly less than the other three opponents.
Make no mistake about it, the Cats will roll in a big way.