Griffins net top Saskatoon product Whitedeer, who brings size and shooting ability

Griffins net top Saskatoon product Whitedeer, who brings size and shooting ability

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – There's no question, the common theme in MacEwan Griffins men's basketball head coach Mike Connolly's 2022-23 recruiting class is size.

Trying to get bigger and stronger in the paint has been a goal, but having big men who can shoot from the perimeter is like found money and is part of a recent trend amongst Canada West teams.

To that end, the Griffins have added new recruit Naythan Whitedeer – a 6-foot-7 natural shooter – to the mix for next season, Connolly announced Wednesday.

"When you add the length he has with his skill – the ability to shoot it and make tough shots – I'm really happy to have kind of player come play for us," said Connolly. "He has to gain some weight, he has to get stronger, but I think he'll be able to play."

Once considered one of, if not the, best high school players in Saskatoon while putting Walter Murray on the map as one of the top teams in the province, Whitedeer has been playing with Bridge City in Canadian Junior Basketball League since graduating in 2020.

"Is he going to come in and be an all-star right away? No," said Connolly. "Can he be an all-star by the end? Yes. Can he help us right now with shooting? Yes he can.

"At 6-7, he's just going to shoot over guards. He just needs to develop his frame to maybe go inside and rebound a bit better, but his skill level and ability will be able to help contribute on the wing."

Friends with both his high school coach and CJBL bench boss Greg Jockims, Connolly knows exactly what he'll be getting in the forward.

"I think he's been well coached," he said. "I know he can take coaching, so he fits into what we want to do. The coaching he's had is similar to what he's going to get here with me."

If Whitedeer can find offensive success at the Canada West level, it will open up a lot of things for the Griffins.

"Let's be honest, the league is going that way," said Connolly of big men who can drain outside shots. "When you look at the top teams – UBC, for example – they have 6-5 guards. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to add size.

"Naythan's pretty good, he's pretty tough and he can really shoot the ball. That's what we're really excited about."