Second Annual BioSteel Game Continues New Tradition

Both Teams gather at center court following the second annual BioSteel All-Canadian All Star Game (Mandatory Credit: Ryan Greco/
Both Teams gather at center court following the second annual BioSteel All-Canadian All Star Game (Mandatory Credit: Ryan Greco/ /

With the second BioSteel All-Canadian game in the books, it’s time to look back on what will surely be a game that is not forgotten by many of the hoop heads around Canada.

It was the first ever live broadcast of it’s kind on TSN, and with the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Leafs off for the night, the kids on the floor truly had the night to themselves.

The game had a few storylines as well, like who would emerge as the next Jamal Murray from the crowd? Would Jaelin llewellyn and Nate Darling capitalize on their overnight national fame, after their dominance of the skills competitions the night before? Would Thon Maker bounce back from a mediocre performance at last year’s game to prove the doubters wrong about his NBA readiness?

Well, a solid hour before tipoff, we already had the answer to the last of those questions.

Thon Maker was out, wanted to “rest”, and “prepare” for the upcoming combine in June. In the scrums, he lamented that the draft “was his only focus now,” and that he was looking forward to cheering on his teammates as honorary captain of Team White.

Thon Maker speaks to media pregame. Maker sat out the game due to wanting rest. (Photo: RyanGreco/
Thon Maker speaks to media pregame. Maker sat out the game due to wanting rest. (Photo: Ryan Greco/ /

Well, that wasn’t only a disappointment to the fans, it was a disappointment to the multiple NBA scouts and analysts who made the trip from all over North America to see what all the fuss has been about the 7-foot-1 Australian center that declared just a week ago.

Despite my prediction on last week’s ToT-Cast, this in fact would not be the “Thon Maker Show”.

Interestingly enough, by the time the game got on its way, the crowd was no longer concerned about the destiny of just one player, because they got one hell of a show.

From beginning to end, this game had everything, posterizing dunks, ridiculous rejections, flashy fast break passes, and some very consistent three-point shooting.

Unfortunately for the winners of the skills competition the night before, neither had a particularly stellar performance.

The three-point champ Darling went two-of-seven from behind the arc, finishing with eight points in 24 minutes. Slam dunk winner Llewellyn finished with just two points, one assist, and two turnovers in 18 minutes.

Despite the sub par performance from both players, it will matter little in their final development. Darling has already signed on to play for the University of Alabama-Birmingham, while Llewellyn will most likely get at least two more shots at this game, as he is officially classified for the class of 2018.

To be honest, none of these players will have their careers set in stone at an event like this; it just looks really good to have it on the résumé. At the end of the day, that is what seasons and camps are for, the BioSteel is, and will likely continue to be, a spectacle of Canadian basketball grassroots pride, and there is nothing wrong with that.

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Then there were the players that definitely benefitted from this event, like Jahvon Blair, who dropped 18 points in the fourth quarter in one of the most ridiculous finishes I think anyone in that gym, NBA talent and all, have ever seen.

Blair would finish with 31 points and earn MVP honours for Team White, following a 120-118 victory in a game where they trailed for almost the entirety of it. The final verdict on Blair in this game was that he got hot at the perfect time for his team, and went three-for-four from the three-point line in the fourth.

“It was a really fast pace going up and down the court, and I really enjoyed my time being able to play my game while I was out there,” said Blair post game.

Kalif Young also managed to continue to impress would be suitors in college as the 6-foot-9 senior finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, and three steals.

Most impressive about Young though had nothing to do with the stat line. His footwork under the rim allowed him to score at will, no matter who was guarding him. He then showed a number of times his ability to stay with guards at the top of the key off of switches, including the aforementioned Blair.

In one instance, Blair attempted to shake the big man with a couple of quick crossovers before exploding to the left side of the rim, only to have Young keep up with him the entire way, disrupting Blair’s shot so much that it never was a real threat to go in upon the release.

Schools like Syracuse and Duke have watched Young play, but Marquette, Alabama, Providence, Pittsburgh and VCU highlight his current list of offers.

But, for all the amazing athleticism and skills on display, and the overall seriousness the event was trying to display, there were moments that reminded all of us in attendance that this was still just a high school game.

Like the time when 6-foot-10 Matur Maker was the victim of the best rejection of the night, courtesy of that well feared and well-respected defender simply known as “the rim”.

Or the time that, for some reason, with all of the money going into this event, they still couldn’t get stitching for the jerseys.

Or the time when the basketball gods attempted to give the game back to team red in the final seconds, giving them two foul shots with a one point deficit, only for Ignas Brazdeikis to miss both free throws, Team Red getting the offensive rebound AND two more foul shots, only for Brissett O’Shae to MISS AGAIN.

It was the kind of play that you can’t believe is happening, while it is happening, and all you can do is laugh your head off afterwards.

I know I did.

But the interesting fact was that Team Red ended up missing 19 free throws in total over the course of the entire game.

“We were up ten with a minute to go,” said Team Red head coach James Derouin. “You don’t expect an all-star game to go down to free throws, but when you lose by two and you miss 19 free throws, it will be something I will be letting the guys know when I get back there. It was a showcase and you want to have a good time, but you also want to remind the players to keep up on good habits.”

Despite the frustrating finish, there really wasn’t a whole lot to be disappointed about from the collection of players we saw this past weekend. Even without Thon Maker, this game turned out to be a classic and the crowd was in it the entire way through.

One could even argue that the event wound up being even better without him, as new names throughout this weekend have now emerged on the national consciousness of the game we all love so much.

Next: BioSteel Skills Competition Brings Out The Best In Canada

That’s what it is all about, to give these young men, and hopefully women soon as well, the chance to shine and show this country, and the world, just how far they have come.