Canadian National Basketball Teams Alumni Association player

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Trailblazers: Canadians That First Played In The NCAA

Despite having the nickname “Porky” the first Canadian born and raised basketball player to make an impact south of the border playing NCAA men’s basketball was George Lloyd Andrews who was born September 18, 1917, Victoria, B.C.

True, Pete Newell who was born in Canada played at Loyola Marymount in the late 1930s’ and would go on to become a legendary collegiate coach being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979, but he was only born in Canada (Vancouver) and grew up in Los Angeles.

Andrews was the first Canadian raised and trained hoopster to make it big in NCAA hoops, joining the University of Oregon Ducks for the 1939-40 school year where he had some big shoes to fill considering the Ducks were defending NCAA champions in as much as that they had defeated Ohio State 46-33 at Northwestern University gymnasium March 27, 1939 for the inaugural event.

The Ducks had had a 29-5 season in 1938-39 but were cut down to size during Andrews first season, winning 19 games while losing 12.

Andrews played in 27 games, dropping in 72 points for 2.6 points per game (ppg) average.

The Tall Firs played even for the 1940-41 campaign with an 18-18 record. Andrews averaged 6.4 ppg while playing all 36 games. His total was 233 points.

Two things changed for Andrews prior to the 1941-42 season.

He changed his jersey number from 14 to 4 and he was named Ducks’ team captain.

Unfortunately the Ducks had their first losing season in nearly 10 years with a 12-15 record (previous was in 1932-33 with 8-19)

On a positive note though, Andrews averaged a career high 6.8 ppg with 184 points in 27 games.

He finished his collegiate career with a 5.4 ppg average while scoring 489 points in 90 games. He had opened the doors for other Canadian hoopsters, albeit at a slow pace, to follow. One such player was Ron Putzi, like Andrews is a native of British Columbia, born in Vancouver and raised in Richmond.

Who like Andrews, would play post-secondary hoops south of the border as a student/athlete for the University of New Mexico Aggies from 1990-92 while wearing jersey No. 23.

In his final year with the Aggies, Putzi team made the NCAA Sweet 16, losing to the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins 85-78.

Like Andrews, the 6′,6″ (197cm), Putzi would go on to play professional basketball in Europe for 10 years, the majority of those years in the Swiss Pro League. Andrews would play for Vancouver Hornets in the Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League from 1946 to 1948.

Putzi, who is a contributor to this site, is also a strong advocate of recognizing the pioneers of Canadian basketball who went on to play NCAA hoops. “Often Canadians who dared venturing to the USA to play NCAA Division 1 basketball were labelled as ‘dreamers’,” said Putzi, now 44 years old.

‘I have always admired the Canadian (NCAA Division 1), ‘trailblazers’  – and looked to them for inspiration, guidance, drive, and a sense of what does it take to attain the highest level of amateur competition in the world. What an accomplishment. “They all demonstrated the ‘guts to try to make it big’ – to improve their odds of having the best possibility of making our National Team or the NBA/WNBA or the pro leagues overseas.”

Putzi, a member of Canada’s FISU team which won a silver medal at the 1992 World University Games held in Sheffield, England, continues: ‘Since basketball was first included in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, the historical total number of Canadian National Team players is actually small. It’s therefore truly an ELITE CLUB – meaning it was and remains very difficult to make Canada’s Sr. Teams (10-12 players); and especially the Olympic teams. “In fact, there are numerous Canadian NCAA Div. 1 players which didn’t make our National Teams. “Regardless. Each gave it their best to play at the highest amateur level in the world. ‘I, as many others, admire and applaud the “trailblazing”efforts these players took to help advance and enhance the awareness of Canadian Basketball; improving Canada’s international reputation as a well-recognized (talent) hub for basketball. “The number of Canadians competing in NCAA Division 1 basketball was once a small number of pioneers, whereas recent years have seen over 100 Canadian men or women enrolled at NCAA Division 1 basketball programs. “Either way, a vast majority of our National Team Alumni competed in NCAA Division I basketball and have made Canada proud and helped (in part), pave the way for our recent basketball renaissance.”

Canadians in NCAA (Men Trailblazers)


Pete Newell: Loyola Marymount


George Andrews: University of Oregon

Bob Pickell : University of Portland

Gino Sovran: University of Detroit Mercy

Ernie Vandeweghe: Colgate University


Bob Houbregs: University of Washington

Fred Ingaldson: Montana State University

John Lee Kootnekoff: Seattle University

Tommy Karren: Brigham Young University Cougars


Walter Birtles: University of Hawaii

Bob Burrows: Seattle Pacific

Bobby Croft: University of Tennessee

Brent Watson: Washington State


Don Brkovich : Michigan State

Mike Brkovich : Michigan State

Ron Crevier: Boston College

Cameron Hall: Duke University.

Lars Hansen: University of Washington

Howard Kelsey: Oklahoma State

Ken McKenzie: University of Montana

Romel Raffin: Penn State.

George Rautins: Niagara University

Leo Rautins: University of Minnesota, Syracuse University

Jamie Russell: Colgate University

Al Tait: Oregon State University

Phil Tollestrup: Brigham Young University

Tim Tollestrup: Utah State

Jim Zoet : Kent State

Post 1970s (Some notables – please advise of any omissions):

Joey Alexander: Niagara University

Romuald Augustin: Providence College

Pasha Bains: Clemson University

Jimmy Balderson: BYU

Dan Becker: Colorado

Henry Bekkering: Eastern Washington

Norm Clarke: St. Bonaventure

Mark Daly: Boston College

Carl English: University of Hawaii

JJ Brade: George Washington U

Olu Famutimi: University of Arkansas

Tom Forrester: University of Maine

Terry Garrow: Alabama

Deon George: St. Francis University

James Gillingham: Bradley University

Stewart Granger: Villanova University

Brendan Graves: Santa Clara / Cal Berkeley

Skouson Harker: Oregon University

Mark Henry: Niagara University

John Karpis : Syracuse

Jon Kijonek: Iona

Bobby Lu: Wake Forest University

Rocky Lu: St. Bonaventure

Jamal Magloire: University of Kentucky

Kevin Massiah: University of Wisconsin

Andrew Mavis: Northern Arizona University

Michael Meeks: Canisus

Juan Mendez: Niagara University

Barry Mungar: St. Bonaventure

Steve Nash : Santa Clara

George Papadakos : Syracuse / Michigan State University

Ron Putzi:  New Mexico State University

Velimi Radinovic: Ohio State University

John Randa: Eastern Washington University

Jerome Robinson: Bradley University

Wayne Robertson: University of New Hampshire

Rob Samuels: St. Bonaventure

Ryan Serravalle: Holy Cross

Tony Simms: Boston University

Wayne Smith: Duquesne University

Bill Wennington: St. John’s University

Greg Wiltjer: Oregon State University

Wayne Yearwood: West Virginia University

Jesse Young: George Mason University


Research by: Curtis J. Phillips

Additions or corrections: