Pictures and Contribution from Andrew Mekbeb
Never in the history of Canadian sports has a basketball player traveled to both extremes of public opinion in such a limited amount of time. Unless you've been under a rock for the past few months, you probably know who Ivan Chiriaev is. The 7-1 sensation from St. Thomas Aquinas High school in Oakville, ON by way of St. Petersburg Russia burst his way onto the NBA draft scene when scouts, the media, and even himself started talking about a 7-1 player with the unheard of ability play the point even at the NBA level. At this point Ivan was nothing more than a humble, hard working kid who was rumored to have committed to the University of Kentucky the following season. At that point he was a player that was ready to go to college unless he was a top three pick in the upcoming draft. Something happened along the way. We've all heard the quotes. We know by now that Ivan feels the NBA wants and needs him that he can be better than Dirk Nowitzki, and there is no other player his size that can do what he can do. But where does it all come from?
Exhibit A: When they come to talk with me after practice, NBA agents or scouts tell me I'm a special player. You know, I'm 7-foot-1 and I can play the point.
Exhibit B: I like Kevin Garnett a lot, but everybody is telling me I'm like Dirk Nowitzki, that we are similar. But I think I can be better than Nowitzkibecause I can play all 5 positions.
Ivan Chiriaev has to deal with something new every day, another person with another agenda. Scouts tell him that he's good enough to be in the NBA, in hopes of their teams being able to grab him late in the draft. It makes them, the organization, look good, and more importantly it makes the scout looks good. His advisors, coaches, and people around him tell him he's a better prospect than this player, or more skilled then that player. And who is Ivan not to believe them? And there you have the development of what most people can only describe as an over inflated ego. But what does Ivan say when you get him out of the spotlight, when your talking to him one on one?
The next few years are going to be the hardestI know it's really different; it's like high, high, high level basketball.
Now that's starting to sound more like a kid who realizes how difficult it is to jump from American High School ball to the NBA, let alone from Canadian High school ball to the NBA.
The best players from the whole world are playing there (The NBA). Right now I know I'm not really ready to play right now. I have to get as much experience as I can. Right now playing against the best basketball players is going to be very hard. I think in a few years I can develop myself to be a better basketball player.
Now we are getting somewhere. If you dig a little deeper you will soon find out Ivan Chiriaev is nothing more than a humble, hard working kid who's been told he's good enough to be in the NBA and has no good reason not to believe it. At this level, the NBA draft is about hype. It's a chess game played by several players; all interested in advancing their own positions and not worried about who they destroy along the way. This same sort of thing has been happening under our noses for the last few years, with a magnitude of European kids who were the next Dirk Nowitzki, the next Peja Stojakovic, or next Arvydas Sabonis. The difference is when they are playing 5,000 miles away in Europe and unable to even get off the bench for their respective teams. All we have is grainy edited video, hyped up scouting reports, and hearsay to help us form our opinions.
Not this guy. For Ivan Chiriaev, who has Canadian and US Media sitting in his backyard, there is no place to hide his deficiencies. The fact of the matter is Ivan is not ready to be a star in the NBA; in fact he is no where near being ready to even contribute in the NBA. However, despite what some NBA scouts, and countless media would have you believe, he does have a future. You can't teach size, and you can't teach some of the natural god given talent that Mr. Chiriaev has. What's important, is that he continues to work and finds and NBA team that is realistic and is willing give him time to develop there's no doubt he has a future.
In the mess of all this, there are few things that we've forgotten. First, Ivan Chiriaev is still arguably the best high school basketball prospect to come out of Canada. Second, he's opened the doors for a large magnitude of Europeans to come to Canada, get their high school education and have the opportunity to pursue their basketball careers either in high school or in the NBA. Any attention, recognition and ultimately success Ivan has at any level is good for basketball in Canada.