Canadians to play prominent role in NBA draft

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Updated: 6/24/2014 12:59 pm

Eight Canadians could be selected in the NBA draft on Thursday.

It's a stunning development for a hockey-crazed country that has had just eight players drafted since Steve Nash was a first-round pick in 1996.

Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis are expected to go in the first round. Dwight Powell, Khem Birch, Melvin Ejim, Jordan Bachynski and Sim Bhullar also are possible selections. Wiggins might be the first player taken, and Stauskas is expected to go early.

The surge started when Vince Carter lifted the Toronto Raptors to prominence, then Nash won two MVP awards with the Phoenix Suns. The Canadian national program followed by increasing efforts to identify and groom young players, and there are more Canadian teams than ever playing AAU ball and helping prospects develop.

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