Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)
Basketball is Basketball.
Whether it’s the NCAA or U SPORTS, JUCO or the CCAA, basketball is basketball. The game can take you anywhere and everywhere you want to go as long as you are willing to put in the effort.
The game of basketball has certainly taken Lakehead Thunderwolves guard Isaiah Traylor (Tupelo, MS) on quite the journey throughout his collegiate career. From playing Division I ball in Nacogdoches, Texas with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks to Division II with the North Alabama Lions in Florence, Alabama, Traylor has seen his fair share of talent and places over the years. And now, Traylor is playing his final year of collegiate basketball in a place that’s a considerable distance from his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi – Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Traylor came to Lakehead University this season, along with forward Kevin Ndahiro (Ottawa, Ont.); both transferring to the program from North Alabama. It was Ndahiro who first connected Traylor with Thunderwolves’ Assistant Coach Matt Erdman, and from there, the recruitment was on.
“I met coach Erdman through [Kevin] Ndahiro and we talked to him a little bit and he started recruiting me,” said Traylor. “I met coach [Ryan] Thomson through him and it just went from there.”
While Traylor’s relationship with Ndahiro played a factor in his recruitment process ahead of his commitment to Lakehead, there have still been some growing pains as the pair adjust to play in the OUA. According to Traylor, even though the pair “played together at North Alabama and we came here together, we’re trying to get stuff on the right page.”
Traylor continued, “Everything is new for us, so we’re just trying to prevail and get stuff better from here on out with the team.”
Traylor and Ndahiro joined a Thunderwolves team that won just two games a season ago, finishing the 2017-18 season with a 2-22 record. Lakehead closed the year on a nine-game losing streak, but they had some promise for this season with a pair of talented recruits joining an up-and-coming roster for coach Thomson. Now, the Thunderwolves have amassed six wins at the end of January, and they have their sights set on more before the season is out.
A big part of this growth is thanks to Traylor. Through the first 18 games of the 2018-19 season for the Thunderwolves, he has made 17 appearances and has started in 10 of those games. He leads the team in scoring with an average of 14.8 points per game on 41.1% shooting from the floor.
When players transfer from the NCAA to U SPORTS, many would think that there are considerable differences, but apart from the rules and the format of games, it comes to the simple fact that basketball is basketball, wherever it’s played. And when speaking to how the game is played in Ontario, Traylor has nothing but praise for the quality of play.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge difference between OUA and American basketball,” added Traylor. “It’s a different type of play, but the OUA is very competitive. This league is very talented so you can’t throw it under the bus at all – it’s very talented.”
Adding a player like Traylor certainly adds to that talent level he is referring to. And having played for three different universities over his collegiate career, Traylor has experienced his share of talent along the way. He has also seen his fair share of recruitments as his career has unfolded. With basketball in Canada more prominent than it has ever been, many younger players are exploring the option of going south of the border with the hopes of one day playing in the NBA or for one of the top collegiate programs that the NCAA has to offer.
For those who are considering their options and weighing the pros and cons of staying in Canada or going to the United States, Traylor had some wise words to factor into those decisions.
“Coaches will find you either way. The best thing you can do is find a coach that connects with you because if you don’t have a good relationship with your coach or your team, to be honest, you’re going to be miserable.”
“You need to go somewhere where you’re going to play and you’re going to enjoy it.”
So to paraphrase Traylor, go where you can have a positive impact, but make sure you’re having fun while you do it.
The Lakehead guard is living proof that his words ring true. Now in Canada, it may be a slightly different experience for him from the United States, but one that seems to be working well. Traylor has been a key piece of the puzzle for the Thunderwolves this season, and he has been a key cog in helping them triple their win total from all last season with a handful of games left on tap in the month of February.
When asked about what the best part of being in Canada has been for him, he was quick to point out the people of Thunder Bay and the fans in general.
“It’s a new feel,” concluded Traylor. “The people around this place are very nice, they’re very friendly opening up. It’s nice to experience stuff at a young age like this.”
It’s clear that Traylor has experienced his share of basketball over his collegiate career. From the deep south in Nacogdoches to the cold temperatures and snow in Thunder Bay, he has seen it all. He’s come across talented players at every stop along the way and has a wealth of experience that will set him up for success down the road. But even with his fair share of stops along his winding basketball journey, one thing has remained constant throughout.
Basketball is still basketball.