Canada suddenly flush with highly coveted PG prospects (cont.)
To that end, there's plenty about Pangos that isn't Nash-like: Whereas Nash grew up in a soccer-dominated family near Vancouver, Pangos has been raised outside of Toronto in a basketball culture. Bill, who also coaches Kevin's club team, the York North Basketball Avengers, was a combo guard in college at the University of Toronto; and Kevin's mother, Patty, who's now a physical education teacher at Dr. Denison, played small forward at McMaster University. In Bill's office, there's a photo of Kevin holding a basketball at a York game when he was just two years old.
Pangos no longer shoots exactly like Nash (from the side), either, nor does he wear No. 13 with any regularity (he was No. 6 in the Jordan Game, and No. 4 on his provincial team). And he's far more exposed, as a recruit, than Nash ever was: A major part of the Nash legend is that he wasn't actively pursued by U.S. colleges, with Santa Clara being the only school that bit on the game footage that his high school coach sent out in hopes of luring scholarship offers. Pangos is already being chased by Syracuse (Rautins' alma mater), Gonzaga (whose roster is stocked with Canadians), Michigan and Cincinnati, in addition to Santa Clara. Because Canadian players often reclassify class years when jumping to the U.S. educational system, he'll be faced with the decision of either doing one prep-school season in the U.S., which would put him in the Class of 2012, or jumping straight to college after his senior year at Dr. Denison, which would put him in the Class of 2011.
Prior to being picked for the Jordan game, he generated substantial buzz by winning MVP honors for the Canadian club team that won the Victor Rho Milan International Tournament in Italy last May, starring for Canada's Cadet national team last summer and then making a trip back to Italy for an exhibition tour with the senior team that August -- despite being just 16 at the time.
Pangos isn't a permanent member of the squad yet; Rautins just wanted him to experience what life was like at the senior level. But during a blowout loss to the Italians, Pangos did become the youngest player ever to appear in a game for the Canadian national team. The previous record-holder was none other than Rautins, who was also on Canada's senior roster at 16, and was the first Canadian ever to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
"I had to think about putting him in," Rautins said. "Because that was my title, and I had to decide, 'Do I want to give this up?' "
Pangos subbed into the game with four minutes left against Italy, taking a memorable shot over a former No. 1 overall pick of the Raptors. "I shot it in Andrea Bargnani's face, and missed," he said. "But I got in one more game, against New Zealand, when we were up by 20, and made a three. It was wide-open, but still -- I was excited, and the team was great about it, cheering me on."
As the youngest member of that Canadian squad, by far, Pangos had players assigned to babysit him (Rautins told them, "If you lose this kid, you're done"), and endured some good-natured rookie hazing. He was forced to wear a Hello Kitty backpack around during the tour, and teammates heckled him mercilessly for the way he was received by the Italian locals. "All of these little girls there figured out that we had this young stud on the team," Rautins said, "so every time we walked into the gym, he's posing for pictures with five or six girls. Guys were busting his chops hard for that."
Yet another way, it seems, in which the "best since Nash" label can be a blessing and a curse.
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