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Now arriving from Canada: Basketball players

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Published on: Thursday, January 27, 2011

By Spencer Broughten

From starting points as stretched wide as Victoria and Halifax, they migrate south. They make the move to improve their future prospects or to gauge their skill against the best the world has to offer.

“They” are the dozens of Canada’s best high school basketball players who represent high school basketball teams across the United States.

More than 70 Canadians are playing high school basketball in the United States this year, mostly at preparatory and private schools. Canadians dot the rosters of some of the country’s powerhouse prep programs and play at institutions in more than 20 states.

Jonathan Tshibuy is one of them. A native of Montreal, the 6-foot-5 Tshibuy plays mainly the small forward position for the team at Potomac’s Bullis School. He has been the team’s second-leading scorer this season, averaging 11.5 points per game for the Bulldogs, who were 12-7 on the year coming out of Tuesday’s loss to Landon.

With a formidable front line and a dynamic, multi-talented backcourt, Bullis has been competitive in each of its 19 games this year. The Bulldogs knocked off Alexandria’s highly touted Episcopal in double overtime Friday, and their seven losses have been by a combined 26 points.

Tshibuy has been a major factor in that success, scoring in double digits in 10 of the 16 games he has played this year. He scored a season-high 21 points in a win over conference opponent Georgetown Prep earlier this month. He also dominated the paint in the upset of Episcopal, snagging 11 rebounds to go with nine points in what Tshibuy highlighted as his favorite personal performance of his season so far.

In August 2009, Slam Magazine listed Tshibuy as one of the top 20 Canadian prospects of his class, and scouting website lists Division I programs like Georgetown, George Washington and Boston College under Tshibuy’s schools of interest.

“He’s a force. He’s just an absolute force. He’s a brute force of nature,” Bullis head coach Bruce Kelley said. “To just see where he’s come and what he can do on a court just makes the rest of us so much better.”

On the court, Tshibuy slashes past larger defenders, rains jumpers over the top of smaller defenders and rebounds with tenacity and precision. Off the court, he speaks softly but assuredly about his college aspirations and his decision to transfer to the United States to improve his game and facilitate his college recruitment.

“All the guys that play up in Canada, we don’t get much exposure,” Tshibuy said. “That’s why we come down here to the United States.”

Tshibuy said he has had some difficult times in the transition from living in Quebec near friends and family to living with teammate Billy Reilly’s family during the academic year.

“Living with another family is cool, but I’m not living with my family, so it’s kind of hard, since you’ve got to keep concentrated with school and just keep doing what you’re doing,” Tshibuy said. “It’s kind of hard sometimes, you know, but I know why I came here.”

One of the Bulldogs’ seven losses came in Bullis’ Holiday Classic tournament at the hands of Washington’s Archbishop Carroll — a team whose top two scorers, Kemi Osse and Kenny Cherry, are also Quebec natives. Tshibuy said he has played with Osse and Cherry in Canada for several years; Cherry and Tshibuy are teammates on Quebec’s Brookwood Elite summer squad.

Tshibuy said he was influenced by another Montreal native, Syracuse University star Kris Joseph, in choosing his American basketball home. Former Carroll head coach and current Bullis assistant coach Clint Perrow recruited Joseph to play at Carroll, and Joseph had positive impressions to pass along to Tshibuy about his old high school coach.

“Coach Clint Perrow — that’s why I came here,” Tshibuy said.

Bullis’ conference, the Interstate Athletic Conference, has been particularly influenced by international players this season. In addition to Tshibuy, Osse and Cherry, several players on Episcopal’s squad are natives of Africa. They include Cameroonian Arnaud Adala-Moto, who leads the team averaging 18.9 points per game, and Nigerian Sadiq Abubakar.

“D.C.’s a natural place, because it’s an international area, and the game, as we see, is an international game,” Kelley said. “There’s opportunities for recruitment that you might not get in a Montreal, Canada.”

The Tshibuy experience is netting positive results for both the player and the school, which begs the question: Might more Canadians ballplayers make the trip to Montgomery County in the future? Kelley said he has thought about keeping the international pipeline open.

“We’ve got to make sure this whole thing works out well with Jon and take it from there,” Kelley said. “He’s been everything we could ever ask, really trying hard. He’s working hard in the classroom, he’s growing and getting better and certainly given us everything he could give.

“I like the idea, but we’ve got to go slow with it,” he said.

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