Hoop dreams boosted

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

By virtue of the MVP award he collected yesterday, Steve Nash sent a wave of inspiration to young Canadian basketball players.

For Calgarian Kyle Landry, Nash was already his idol and a chance meeting last fall reaffirmed his beliefs.

Nash's Phoenix Suns were practising in Flagstaff, Ariz., during training camp where Landry is a freshman centre for the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.

Landry and fellow Canuck Steve Sir from Edmonton were having a brief chat when the soft-spoken Victoria native turned and spoke to Lumberjacks coach Mike Adras.

"He told my coach that he's excited to see he was recruiting from Canada and bringing us down here," said Landry.

"He has a pretty big impact. It's exciting to see that it doesn't matter where you come from, you can make a pretty big impact on that league."

But that's the type of behaviour Canadians have come to expect from Nash. He's a walking, talking ambassador for the game north of the 49th parallel.

And after watching Nash practise with the Suns before his stellar NBA season started, Landry went out and had an impressive NCAA campaign himself.

The Bishop Grandin graduate started at centre for all but one Lumberjacks contest and averaged 8.8 points per game going one-on-one against the conference's big men.

By playing in Nash's state, Landry got to see the point guard plenty on TV. He expects more Canadians will be able to make it big in the NBA because of the season Nash had.

"This gives the Canadian program a little more respect," Landry said. "It shows we have really good players up there. Right now, it's Steve Nash winning the MVP but in a couple of years it could be somebody else."

Nash's influence is also being felt locally. Robbie Sihota, a Lester B. Pearson product who just signed on with the University of Calgary Dinos, said yesterday's announcement could change his career.

Sihota played on a high school team that didn't travel much to get noticed by scouts.

So the 6-ft. 5-in. forward only received one offer from an American university, just like Nash did when he entered college.

He expects that to change as people in the U.S. take Canuck players more seriously. But the most important effect of Nash's award is now Sihota believes in himself a bit more now.

"The big thing is if you don't see any Canadians going to the NBA or even the next level, you don't think there are any chances for a guy like me," said the 17-year-old. "If you do see guys performing well at the next level, you start to believe in yourself and have more confidence."

Fellow Dinos recruit Greg Jobagy of Lord Beaverbrook is impressed with how Nash received the MVP with average scoring numbers. And as a 6-ft. 5-in. forward, Jobagy takes inspiration knowing a 'little guy' like Nash can still succeed in a big man's game.

"He contributes an amazing amount to his team. He's overcome all that adversity to get there," Jobagy said of the 6-ft. 3-in. Nash. "He's a great role model for the way basketball should be played. He makes everyone around him better."


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