The runner-up Dinos' starting five in Sunday's CIS final against Carleton was a perfect reflection of the trend that as more Canadians go south to play, more players from outside Canada are coming north. Along with Cooper, a Chattanooga, Tenn., small forward who counted 76 points in three Final 8 games to earn an all-star nod, the Dinos ran with Australian fifth-year guard Josh Owen-Thomas and German forward Lars Schlueter.
All 17 Canada West men's teams included at least one non-Canadian this season. The trend is apparent in the women's game, too, where the Saskatchewan Huskies won the national title with Sabine Dukate, a Latvian, as a starting guard.
Cooper, who previously played at Nebraska-Kearney, felt renewed playing in Canada, with the shorter 24-second clock.
"It's definitely fun, because you have to be in better shape, make quicker decisions, better plays," Cooper said. "All of those things, I'll definitely be back and I'll want another shot at it."
The move is somewhat a scaled version of what's happened in the NBA and NCAA.
"You can fight it or embrace it, and we've chosen to embrace it," Thompson Rivers coach Scott Clark told Krown Countdown U in January (19:00 mark).
It's also a necessity, since growth of post-secondary education in the two westernmost provinces has surpassed the pool of basketball talent. For instance, UBC and UVic long had British Columbia to themselves at the university level, but five Interior schools now play. Thompson Rivers, Trinity Western and Fraser Valley have all been tournament teams. Likewise, Alberta has gone from three to five since MacEwan and Mount Royal moved over from the college league.
"If we keep expanding and bringing other teams in, it narrows the recruiting base," Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said. "Our populations aren't the same as Ontario or even Quebec."
With an extra season to play and only 24 seconds to take a shot, there's benefits to playing in Canada. The top competition is Division 1-calibre.
"It's been demonstrated many times, whether we play in the U.S. or they come up here, that our top 8-10 teams can compete with the NCAA teams," Vanhooren said.
Of course, a Division 1 team has a huge recruiting budget. Vanhooren was able to initiate contact with Cooper and Schlueter through former Dinos now working in the U.S. and Germany.
|Alberta Golden Bears||Coley Jackson||Las Vegas, NV|
|Brandon Bobcats||DJ Jordan||Wichita Falls, TX|
|Earl Thompson Jr.||Henderson, NV|
|John Paul||Bexon, St. Lucia|
|UBC Thunderbirds||A.J. Holloway||Tacoma, WA|
|Phil Jalalpoor||Shifferstadt, Germany|
|Dominic Gilbert||Sydney, Australia|
|UBC-O Heat||Brian Ademba||Nairobi, Kenya|
|Calgary Dinos||Thomas Cooper||Chattanooga, TN|
|Josh Owen-Thomas||Adelaide, Australia|
|Lars Schlueter||Ulm, Germany|
|Fraser Valley Cascades||Nate Brown||Fresno, CA|
|Mark Johnson||Palm Springs, CA|
|Lethbridge Pronghorns||Dejon Burdeaux||Oakland, CA|
|Carl Hoffman||Rancho Palos Verdes, CA|
|Brandon Brine||Adelaide, Australia|
|MacEwan Griffins||Thadius Galvez||Ogden, UT|
|Manitoba Bisons||Ilarion Bonhomme II||Washington, DC|
|Mount Royal Cougars||Glen Yang*||Hong Kong, China|
|UNBC Timberwolves||Austin Chandler||Wenatchee, WA|
|Rhys Elliott||Adelaide, Australia|
|Vaggelis Loukas||Athens, Greece|
|Regina Cougars||Alex Igual||Barcelona, Spain|
|Rawane Ndiaye||New York, NY|
|Zach Mihalicz||Parker, CO|
|Saskatchewan Huskies||Shawn Lathan||San Diego, CA|
|TRU WolfPack||Mauricio Medrano||Los Altos, CA|
|Gerald Gore||St. John's, Antigua|
|Volodymyr Iegorov||Donetsk, Ukraine|
|TWU Spartans||Kelvin Smith||Los Angeles, CA|
|Pogos Trunyan||Sacramento, CA|
|Victoria Vikes||Kai Green||Seattle, WA|
|Grant Sitton||Brush Prairie, WA|
|Winnipeg Wesmen||Ryan Oirbans||Melbourne, Australia|
California, not surprisingly given its population, had eight players in the league, followed by Australians and four from Washington state. I nine counties and seven U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. Mount Royal's Glen Yang did move to Canada while still in high school.