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NBA

January's Canadian Round-Up: Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer leading a wave of Canadians playing pro in Spain

#Can RoundUp January

18 Canadians started the season playing professional basketball in Spain. Six of them are in the top tier ACB - one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

MORE: December's Canadian Round-Up: Kia Nurse Q&A, Keeping up with the Canadians, Chantal Vallee makes history | November's Canadian Round-Up: Is Dwight Powell underrated? Q&A with former national team member Carl English

This month's Canadian Round-Up is dedicated to those Canadians playing in Spain, some of which will be vying for a spot on the national team when Canada takes the floor at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

Kevin Pangos

In his first season in Barcelona, Kevin Pangos is flourishing. Barcelona is currently sitting in first place in league play with an 11-2 record - a full game ahead of Real Madrid and Baskonia.

Pangos has appeared in all 13 league games with averages of 17.5 points and 5.6 assists per 36 minutes, shooting 48% from the field.

As much success as Barca has had in league play, they've struggled in the Euroleague. With an 8-7 record, Barcelona sits in sixth place.

Pangos has seen a dip in production in the more competitive Euroleague with per 36 averages of 13.3 points and 5.7 assists. His shooting percentage is where he has seen the biggest drop-off, down to 36% from the field.

Reaching the Final Four is the ultimate goal for Barca as we hit the halfway point of the Euroleague. Pangos recently talked about what the team has to do to achieve that goal.

"We have to continue believing in what we have been doing, playing together and winning games, most of all," Pangos told Euroleague.net. "It doesn't matter how it gets done, we have to keep doing it. The Final Four is an unbelievable experience. It is something that I really enjoyed. After being there, I just want to win it all at some point. It is definitely an extra motivation to try to go back there."

Johny Berhanemeskel

Former Ottawa Gee Gee standout Johny Berhanemeskel is also in the ACB after spending last season playing in Germany's top league.

The 26-year-old is now suiting up for Zaragoza, who currently sits in the middle of a bunched up ACB ladder at 7-6.

Berhanemeskel is averaging 17.8 points and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes this season. He's mostly come off the bench for Zaragoza, only starting in three of the team's 13 games.

Zaragoza has finished 12th,15th and 16th respectively in each of the last three years in the ACB - they currently sit 9th in the league, one spot out of the playoffs.

Connor Morgan

Connor Morgan was part of the 35 different players that helped Canada qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Morgan, like Berhanemeskel, is a product of USports having played his university ball at UBC.

Canada Basketball Executive VP Rowan Barrett told NBA.com back in December how important the growth of USports is and how much talent it's producing on a yearly basis.

"Growing the talent, building their skills, helping them understand what you need to deliver at the highest levels and our players are now showing the ability to do that," Barrett said. "They're coming out with double-figure performances, they're sometimes coming out as defensive stoppers, they're filling all kind of different holes with our team - they're here in every facet of the game helping us.

"Now we're seeing more and more USports players going overseas playing professionally. Connor Morgan came out of UBC and he's playing in the ACB in Spain like this is amazing.

"I think more and more you're seeing the growth of that league and their growth has positively impacted Canada Basketball in its hopes to be the world's best."

The 24-year-old Morgan is in the midst of his rookie year as a pro. In the summer he played in the New Zealand pro league and is now finding his way in the ACB with Divina Seguros Joventut.

Morgan is putting up 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes in what's considered one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA.

Kyle Wiltjer

Some pretty notable players have played for Unicaja Malaga. Former Spurs' guard Gary Neal spent a season there before coming to San Antonio. Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson played there after his time in the NBA and former Raptors Juan Dixon, Zan Tabak and Jorge Garbajosa all suited up for Unicaja at one time or another.

After sitting on the cusp of the NBA, Kyle Wiltjer went over to Europe last season playing for Olympiacos in Greece. This season, he's playing in the ACB with Unicaja Malaga and he's balling. Wiltjer is averaging 23.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per 36 minutes on 52% shooting from the field.

Unicaja currently sits fourth in the ACB with a 9-4 record and fourth in the EuroCup with a 7-2 record.

Oh, by the way: Wiltjer is shooting 45% from the field in EuroCup competition.

Out of all the guys over in Spain, he may have the best chance of making the World Cup team in August.

Aaron Doornekamp

The veteran Aaron Doornekamp is still at it at age 33, giving Valencia the hardnose play that you expect from a Carleton Raven - or better yet, that you expect from someone who was coached by the legendary Dave Smart.

Doornekamp has started, come off the bench, scored, rebounded; whatever Valencia has needed this season helping them to a 9-5 record.

He's averaging 9.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes in the ACB and shown some solid play in the EuroCup as well.

Doornekamp has been a pro since 2009 playing in some of the most competitive leagues in the world. He's been a part of title teams in university and as a pro. He's had the opportunity to represent the senior national team and stand on the podium at a competition.

His career should be an example of what life could be like without the NBA - it's still pretty good.

Dylan Ennis

MoraBanc Andorra hasn't had the start to the season they've wanted as the calendar flips to the new year, but it's of no fault to Dylan Ennis. Ennis has been the team's go-to scorer this season posting averages of 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per 36 minutes.

When the competition has gotten a little stiffer in EuroCup action Ennis' line of 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists has Andorra through to the second phase of the competition.

With where the team is placed now in the ACB along with how the season has gone, it will be interesting to see if they turn their attention and efforts into finishing well in the EuroCup. Qualifying for the Euroleague next year is probably out of the question at this point and the EuroCup may be just out of reach - if those options aren't available Andorra is free to turn to the Basketball Champions League which has been competitive in its first couple of years.

Jr. NBA Competition expands

The second annual Jr. NBA Global Championship is set to take place August 6-11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

In partnership with Canada Basketball, provincial cup champions from all 10 provinces will compete in regional tournaments across Canada in April. The winning girls and boys teams from Western Canada, Eastern Canada, the Prairies, the Atlantic and Ontario will then go head to head at the NBA Global Championship Canada Regional Finals in June in Ontario.

"Following a successful first year of the Jr. NBA Global Championship, we're thrilled to offer Canadian girls and boys with even more opportunities to compete and develop their skills on and off the court," NBA Canada Vice President and Managing Director Dan MacKenzie said in a release.

"Together with Canada Basketball, we're proud to strengthen our investment in grassroots development, benefiting youth across the country."

Qualifying competition will begin across Canada in January. Good luck to all those participating.

FIBA 3x3 to Montreal

Montreal will host a FIBA 3x3 World Tour Masters in September 2019. It's the number one event of the 3x3 professional season and it will be in Montreal each year until 2021.

Montreal will be the third Canadian city to host a pro 3x3 event, joining Saskatoon (2017) and Edmonton (2018).

"Canada has become a hotbed for 3x3 and we are thrilled about the city of Montreal's decision to host a FIBA 3x3 World Tour in 2019," FIBA 3x3 Managing Director Alex Sanchez said in a release.

"It is just fitting that our 3x3 stars visit the home of the 1976 Summer Olympics, just one year before the game's Olympic debut in Tokyo.

"Montreal and 3x3 have so much in common: dynamic, urban and multicultural. We are looking forward to an exciting event and a genuine urban culture party in this iconic city next year!"

CEBL x Canada Basketball

Canada Basketball and the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced their partnership in early December, making it the official first division professional league in Canada.

The CEBL, which is set to tip in May, will operate under official FIBA rules and regulations becoming the first league in Canada to have an official affiliation with FIBA.

"We are very pleased to welcome the Canadian Elite Basketball League as an official partner of Canada Basketball," President and Chief Executive Officer of Canada Basketball Glen Grunwald said in a release.

"Under the leadership of Mike Morreale and Richard Petko, the CEBL has proven to be committed to operating with high professional standards that align with those of Canada Basketball and FIBA.

"It is a league created by Canadians for Canadians. Aligning with the CEBL to achieve our mission of developing Canadian basketball will greatly benefit players, coaches, officials and fans of our sport as we continue to work to grow the game domestically."

The league will begin with franchises in Hamilton, St. Catharines, Guelph, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Abbotsford.

It will run from May to August this year.

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