- Christopher Lawlor, High School Basketball
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NEW YORK -- Kevin Pangos is on a fast track, and that's irrefutable.
Last summer he toured Italy with the Canadian men's national team, saw court time when two of the games were out of hand, and even knocked down a 3-pointer.
That's heady stuff to pack the résumé for a 17-year-old from suburban Toronto.
There's more. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard is creating a buzz in Canadian basketball circles. Some are calling him the second coming of Steve Nash, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. He's earning reputation for his tireless work ethic, resembling Nash's unfathomable rise from an unknown guard from British Columbia to Canada's king of the court. Pangos' routine is rarely interrupted by harsh Canadian winters, rain or darkness. He regularly squeezes in pickup games and workouts.
The hubbub over the Canada's top-rising senior (Class of 2011) from Denison Secondary School in Newmarket, Ontario (30 minutes north of Toronto), is justified. Pangos also earned a trip to Madison Square Garden on Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET) when he suits up for the Jordan Brand International Game, which features 16 of the top 15- and 16-year-old players from around the world.
Ten European players were selected at a training camp held last month in Istanbul, Turkey. Other players are from Puerto Rico, China, Brazil, Nigeria and Senegal. A majority of those participants play for talent-rich club youth teams.
"I was introduced to the game at a young age," said Pangos, whose father, Bill, is the head women's coach at York University in Canada. "Going to the Jordan [Brand Classic] game will be fun. I get to meet some of the top players in the world and play against with and against them. For me the game is about making my teammates better. That's what a point guard does."
He also helped Denison reach the OFSAA AAA quarterfinals this season (Ontario's second largest classification provincial championships). Pangos averaged 25 points and 7 assists a game. Earlier this month he was named the MVP of the Junior Invitational Tournament in Italy as a Toronto select team, made up of high school players, placed second at the club team competition.
"He's a point guard through and through," Bill Pangos said. "Kevin is unselfish always looking to make his teammates better. He's able to bust out in transition and makes good reads at high speed. He'll hit the 3-pointer consistently and can get into the lane and find the open spot-up shooter.
"Kevin's signature is about team; it's that simple. He has no ego and enjoys training," he added.
That's exactly what recruiters love about Pangos.
"I've had a number of university coaches [from Canada] ask about Kevin, but playing in the United States is where he'll go," Bill Pangos said. "The level of play in Canada is not as high as the United States."
So far Gonzaga, Michigan and Cincinnati have shown the most interest, with Syracuse -- the alma mater of Canadian National Team coach Leo Rautins -- closing in. Expect the list to grow exponentially.
"There would be more schools but most haven't seen me play," Kevin said. "I'll try play in at least one AAU event this summer in Las Vegas but I'll play in the [FIBA] U-17 World Championships in Germany (in July]."
Before Kevin Pangos makes a college decision he's still weighing his options, which include redshirting, prep school in United States or attending 13th grade in Canada while working out with local coaches.
Ask Kevin Pangos about his friend and countryman Duane Notice, a guard from St. Michael's College School in Toronto, and he exudes pride.
"It's great we're the two players from North America playing in the game," Pangos said. "Basketball in Canada is improving."
The same can be said about Notice. The 6-3, 210-pound sophomore keeps getting better and will compete this summer for the Canadian U-17 team at the first-ever FIBA World Championships.
"Duane has a wide frame and big shoulders; he is a great ball handler and is strong with the game. It's a unique game," St. Michael's coach Jeff Zownir said. "He gets around guys but is unselfish with the ball."
Don't let his youth fool you.
This season St. Michael's reached the quarterfinals of the OFSAA AAAA (large classification) tournament. Notice emerged as the Blue Raiders go-to player, averaging 22 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Defensively his low center of gravity complements his stature. The Blue Raiders (31-12) won the provincial Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association title -- qualifying the Blue Raiders for the AAAA tournament in March -- as Notice tallied an Ontario-best 18 games with 25 points or more.
"I was nervous at the beginning of the season; we had graduated seniors from last year's team; we were young," said Notice, a two-year starter in the backcourt. "As the season went along, I became more comfortable."
That's an understatement.
"He had a huge impact as a legit sophomore," Zownir said. "He carried us this season."
Notice is hardwired for the American game. Santa Clara has visited a few times, and others are watching. This summer Notice will play in Canada's cadet program and isn't sure if the AAU circuit is in his plans.
Notice said powerhouse programs such as Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas and Gonzaga have piqued his interest but no letters have arrived -- yet. But Notice believe he has a game that will succeed in college.
"I'm a playmaker who can score a quiet 30 points but as long as I get 10 assists that means my teammates will be involved," he said. "I don't force things; my shot selection is good."
As for sharing the Madison Square Garden floor with Pangos, Notice is thrilled.
"I respect [Pangos]," Notice said. "He brings out the best in me; you can't help but play hard against him. He's also the best teammate; Kevin's so positive. That's really his best attribute."
Pangos and Notice are just two of the international players invited here for the 2010 Jordan Brand International Game. Check out the both rosters (country of residence in parentheses).
White squad: 5-11 Carmelo Betancourt Carbonell (Puerto Rico); 6-4 Vasilije Micic (Serbia); 6-3 Duane Notice (Canada); 6-6 Marius Grigonis (Lithuania); 6-7 Augustinas Jankaitis (Lithuania); 6-7 Jean Yves Toupane (Senegal); 6-8 Nikola Jankovic (Serbia); 6-8 Francesco Candussi (Italy); and coach Herman Harried of Lake Clifton High in Baltimore.
Black squad: 6-0 Artur Pecos Fernandes da Silva (Brazil); 6-1 Kevin Pangos (Canada); 6-2 Malik Muller (Germany); 6-2 Charly Maraux (France); 6-6 Jorge Sanchez (Spain); 6-7 Alexandre Chassang (France); 6-8 Christopher Obekpa (Nigeria); 6-7 Kyprianos Maragkos (Greece); and are coached by Miles Simon, former assistant at the University of Arizona.
Tipping off Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic tripleheader at Madison Square Garden is the Regional Game at 3:30 p.m.
On display are players ranked in the ESPNU 100 from the New York City metropolitan area in a City-versus-Suburban showdown. Players will be heading to top college programs, including St. Johns, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall, Kansas State, Temple, Vermont, Richmond and Manhattan.
However, seven players remain undecided. For Marcus Henderson, who resides an hour north of here in Newburgh, the opportunity of playing at the Garden fulfills a hoop dream.
"I once stepped on the court [at the Garden] a few years ago but now get a chance to play there," said the diminutive 5-7, 140-pound point guard who quarterbacked Newburgh Free Academy to New York's Class AA semifinals this year and a state title in 2009.
Besides Henderson, there is quality to be had in the game. Here's a quick look at the seven available players:
• Kadeem Jack (Harlem, N.Y./Rice): He's the top unsigned senior in the game, ranked as the No. 44 power forward. The 6-8 Jack successfully adjusted from the perimeter, where he forced 3s, to a power inside presence. His long arms and quick feet propel his burgeoning post play. Last weekend, he visited Miami, where former Rice teammate Durand Scott attends. Jack, who is from Trinidad and Tobago and only took up the game in ninth grade, will visit Connecticut, St. John's and Arkansas. Jack said he will announce a decision April 28. Coach Steve Lavin, recently hired at St. John's, would pull his first major coup if he lands Jack.
• Marcus Henderson (Newburgh): At 5-7, Henderson is defensive whiz with lightning-quick hands. As the designated press breaker, he helped the Newburgh Goldbacks win back-to-back sectional titles. This season he contributed 10.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2 steals. Central Connecticut, Marist and Sacred Heart are interested, while Rhode Island recently has backed off. Henderson will likely sign with Wagner, with newly hired coach Dan Hurley offering.
• Leroy Isler (Brooklyn, N.Y./Boys and Girls): The 6-5 physical specimen played two years at Boys and Girls after transferring from Macon, Ga., after his sophomore year. This year he was good for a double-double, 17 points and 13 boards, as the Kangaroos won their first PSAL title in 31 years before falling in the State Federation AA final. Binghamton and Quinnipiac have made offers, and Robert Morris is interested. "I'm a hard-working defender; defense wins championships," he said. Junior college or prep school is the likely landing for Isler, who hopes to try out for the Jamaican National Team. (His father hails from the Caribbean island nation.)
• Maurice Barrow (Queens, N.Y./Christ the King): At 6-4, Barrow was a key player for Christ the King, which won the State Federation AA championship. A versatile player, Barrow can run the open floor, play on the perimeter and defend. Fairfield is the clear leader, with Iona, Marist and Robert Morris trailing.
• Ryan Rhoomes (Middleton, N.Y./Benjamin Cardozo): The 6-8 forward says he wants to attend an ACC or Big East school, but that will wait a season. Rhoomes said he'll first attend a prep school to bolster his grades, powerhouse South Kent School in Connecticut is the near-lock spot. A first-team all-city selection, Rhoomes averaged 17 points, 12 rebound and 3 blocks for Cardozo, which advanced to the PSAL AA final.
• Ronald Roberts (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep): The 6-7, 210-pound power forward reopened his recruiting Wednesday after getting a release from St. John's. Roberts (No. 186 power forward), who averaged 19 points and 12.7 rebound as a senior, asked for a release when Norm Roberts (no relation) was let go by the Red Storm. Saint Joseph's, his second choice last fall, appears to be the new leader for the aggressive rebounding post.
• Jeffrey Short (Bronx, N.Y./Kennedy): The 6-4 wing man is a scoring machine, averaging 28.7 points per game, with a high game of 45. Schools are interested but grades are an issue. Sounds like a real steal for a school willing to roll the dice on the PSAL player of the year.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today.
Kevin Pangos one of two Canadians set to shine at Jordan Brand Classic, writes Christopher Lawlor.