Burlington's Heslip is Mr. Clutch

Burlington, Ont.'s, Brady Heslip is a starting guard with the Baylor Bears. (ERIC DRAPER/Reuters...

Burlington, Ont.'s, Brady Heslip is a starting guard with the Baylor Bears. (ERIC DRAPER/Reuters file photo)

RICHARD ZUSSMAN, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 PM ET

Brady Heslip listened to his dad and look how it paid off. The Burlington native has been one of the early stars of the NCAA tournament and on Saturday afternoon the Baylor guard caught fire, hitting nine three-pointers in the Bears’ 80-63 win over Colorado.

But that sweet stroke didn’t come easy.

“My dad always told me that nothing is going to be given to you,” said Heslip from Waco, Tex., on Tuesday. “He got me started at a real young age. He taught me the fundamentals and then I practised a lot.”

And when Heslip says he practised a lot, he means a lot . As a youngster he was a regular at Cedar Springs health club in Burlington. For eight hours a day he would shoot baskets and search for bigger and stronger players so he could keep improving his game. The more he shot the basketball, the better he got.

“I would stay there all day and eventually would call my mom to come pick me up there.”

He was also one of those kids that spent a lot of time on his outdoor hoops. But eventually the Canadian weather chased him off the sidewalks and onto the hardwood. The search for three-point lines to shoot from was on. From Cedar Springs it was on Hamilton and eventually Toronto always in search of a better test in basketball.

Heslip also isn’t new to dramatic performances. Back in 2007 his Nelson Lords were on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs. Then a young Brady took over. He led his team back from eight down in the final quarter and hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win 50-47. He has also been known to score in bunches. Earlier that season, Heslip scored 54 points in one game against Notre Dame.

His three-point stroke has been honed by his father Tom. The elder Heslip is a former all-Canadian basketball player at Guelph.

“I was blessed to have a basketball family, to be around them to get the basketball knowledge. If kids love the game enough there are ways to get better.”

His performance in New Mexico last weekend has got a lot of people talking. Hundreds of phone calls and texts have exploded Heslip’s phone. E-mails have been piling up from Canada and across the states. Before last weekend the Canadian sharp-shooter was little known, now he can boast he was trending on Twitter country wide.

“The attention doesn’t phase me but it is definitely something new for me. I’m not thinking too much about the attention.”

Heslip has been called a one-trick pony, but it’s a pretty good trick to have. He has connected on 14 of his 22 three-point attempts so far in the tournament. Over the past four games, Heslip hit an other worldly 66% of his three-point attempts. Even the ones that miss look like they are going in.

Baylor is now looking like a legitimate threat to make the Round of Eight and could be the team that upsets top-ranked Kentucky. A lot of it will be up to Heslip and his new goggles.

Like Michael Jordan’s wagging tongue the shooting 6-foot-3 guard now has a trademark. In a game a few weeks ago Heslip hit a clutch three-pointer. Out of pure emotion he put his hands together and held them to his face like they were goggles. It is same move he has been doing ever since.

“It just something I did out of emotion against Kansas, it was an important moment,” he said. “I just did it, it was just emotions taking over the game.”

Heslip is hoping the next step for his career is the NBA. His family has ties there too. His uncle is Jay Triano, the former Raptors head coach and bench boss for Team Canada. Triano’s success, as well as that of players like Steve Nash, on the world stage has given Heslip reason to dream that Canadians can make it at the NBA level.

“I plan on playing basketball as long as I can. But I will definitely be back in Canada afterward.”

But if Heslip keeps shooting like he has been, it may be a long time until he’s back in Canada. Except maybe on the floor for or against the Raptors.

EAST COASTING

The teams playing in this year’s tournament must have caught on to the whole East Coast bias thing. For the second time in history there are no teams west of the Rockies left in the final 16 teams of college basketball. There are also no teams left from the Mountain or Pacific time zones.

For the last seven years there have been at least two west teams left amongst the final 16 and last season there were three. One of the reasons for the west coast collapse has been the disappointing play of the Pac 12. The conference struggled this season with perennial powers UCLA and Arizona down in the dumps.

The Mountain West Conference also laid an egg in the tournament. The conference sent four teams to the post season and they posted a combined record of 1-4. Usual surprise teams St. Mary’s and Gonzaga also bowed out during the first weekend.

ALL-AMERICAN CANADIAN

Montreal’s Kris Joseph is getting a big pat on the back for a year well done. Joseph has been named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-American Second Team. The team is voted on by NCAA coaches.

The senior Syracuse Orange forward scored 13.7 ppg and hauled in 4.9 rebounds. Joseph is leading the Orange into the Round of 16 on Thursday against Wisconsin.

The first All-American team consisted of Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas) and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State). Joseph was joined on the second team by Harrison Barnes (UNC), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), Kevin Jones (West Virginia) and Tyler Zeller (North Carolina).

Joseph was named the AP’s sixth man of the year last season. He was long listed for the Wooden Award as national player of the year.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Right now the Toronto Raptors are projected to pick fifth in this summer’s NBA Draft. There are a handful of player’s still playing in the NCAA tournament that may end up being in that spot come draft time.

Harrison Barnes, UNC: He seems to be the consensus pick for the Raptor’s. The 6-foot-8 Tar Heel is the typical small forward the Raps have been searching for. Barnes is averaging 17.3 ppg and 5.3 rebounds.

James Michael McAdoo, UNC: McAdoo is built a lot like current Raptor and former UNC forward Ed Davis. McAdoo has been a back up all season and would be a work in progress at the NBA level. The 6-foot-9 forward may see more time if John Henson gets injured again.

Bradley Beal, Florida: Beal is a little bit of a tweener at 6-foot-4, but can shoot the ball and get to the hoop. May not be the best fit on a Raptors team Jerryd Bayless but would add instant athleticism. The 18-year-old averaged 14.6 ppg in his first year as a Gator.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The Raptors already have a number of power forwards but Robinson’s winning pedigree could fit up front. The 6-foot-9 forward scored 17.7 ppg for the Jayhawks this year.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: MKG told reporters he was planning on heading back to school in the fall. If he makes the leap to the pros he would be a good fit for the Raps. The Wildcat small forward is not the most polished prospect but makes up for it with hard work on both ends of the floor.

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Who wouldn’t want Davis? The likely NCAA player of the year will also likely be the first name commissioner David Stern calls at the NBA Draft. The Raptors would need to tank this season to get a shot at Davis.


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