Global game, global prospects

Among the various analyses directed toward the Class of 2015, many pertain to the various positions, or the geography of the prospects, or general recruiting dynamics.

But the junior class stands apart for an entirely unique reason: Some of the best players don't hail from America.

Basketball's prominence as an international game began in the 1990s, when David Stern foresaw immense opportunity with emerging markets. The 1992 Dream Team stormed through Barcelona, bringing an American game to a world hungry to consume it. Without any expensive equipment to purchase or gear that hides players' faces, in many respects the sport's appeal tracks alongside soccer.

When Yao Ming joined the NBA in 2002, the league marketed him relentlessly and even began drafting all-star ballots in multiple languages.

Cultural shifts typically take time to manifest, which brings us to the Class of 2015. Foreign children who may have been five-years-old when Ming entered the league saw an opportunity to make an impact of their own, and this junior class illustrates the point.

Scout.com's No. 4 prospect, Ben Simmons, hails from Australia. That country has produced native-born hoopsters for years and also serves as a waystation of sorts by which Africans and other international prospects can make their way to American universities.

Our No. 6 junior, Cheick Diallo, hails from Mali and established himself an elite prospect immediately upon competing against his American peers. No. 7 Skal Labissiere barely survived the 2010 Haiti earthquake before he and his family emigrated to America.

Teki Gill Caesar is merely the latest blue-chip prospect to arrive to America from Canada. In fact, our northern neighbor has become so prominent in the sport that there's a chance — even a likelihood — that Andrew Wiggins will become the second straight Canadian (following Anthony Bennett last year) to get selected first overall in the NBA draft.

Senegal has produced ample hoopsters over the years, and No. 24 Moustapha Diagne has a chance to carve out a professional future of his own.

In sum, then, three of the top 10 and five of our top 25 prospects are non-native Americans. A full 20 percent of the class doesn't call America the homeland. And that number doesn't include those prospects who may be elite but don't play in North America, such as Dante Exum (a potential top-five prospect) from the 2014 class.

Moreover, those five international juniors hail from four different land bodies and both hemispheres, gigantic continents and tiny islands. The avenues they traversed to chase an American dream vary wildly, but that dream remains the same.


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