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: firstname.lastname@example.org