Rising Up: Hanson watching NBA Draft closely


Before Marcus Hanson was deciding where to play his college soccer, the FC Buffalo midfielder was looking for a school that could help his hoop dreams.

The 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario — set to start his junior year at the University at Buffalo in August — was a member of a high-flying travel basketball team in Canada, with several players set to be selected in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I played in the OBA, the Ontario Basketball Association,” Hanson said. “In the winter, you’d play for your respective city. I’d play for Mississauga. In the summer, some of the best guys from around the area played on the same travel team. That team was St. David’s Blues for me.

“On that team when we were really young was a kid who was a year younger than me, his name was Andrew. That turned out to be Andrew Wiggins, who we know today.”

Wiggins could be the first pick in Thursday’s draft after a standout “one-and-done” season at Kansas. Before Hanson chose soccer, he was part of an incredible travel team and league, playing with and against Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis. All are set to be chosen in or close to the first round of Thursday’s draft, none higher than Wiggins.

“We just knew he was a good player for his age group,” Hanson said. “No one ever thought that he would be what he is today. We’ve been friends for a while. We played with each for three or four years, we were on the same time in the summer.”

At “just” 6-foot-1, Hanson was encouraged to nurture his blossoming soccer skills (he represented Canada internationally at age 12 and has also played for the St. Kitts and Nevis U-20 team). That led to a tough decision.

“I continued playing in the OBA/youth stuff until Grade 10. I decided to take soccer more seriously, I transferred schools. Had a few looks for basketball, a little interest from D-1 but my coach was saying I could take soccer and get a scholarship if I concentrated a bit more,” Hanson said.

“It was definitely a tough decision. It still rips my heart open. My parents always said they think my first love was basketball. One of my all-time goals when I was a little kid, was to play Division I basketball and go to the NBA.”

But he’s loved what’s come of his time in soccer, both at UB and FC Buffalo. With the Wolves this summer, Hanson had a chance to be reunited with his former assistant coach at UB, FCB head coach Brendan Murphy.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Hanson said. “Murph was my assistant coach my freshman year… everyone loved Murph. As soon as he extended the invitation, I couldn’t pass it up. To be able to play in the city where I go to school at is great.

“The biggest thing is I didn’t realize how great the team was going to be. It’s been a great team atmosphere, competitive at practice and I couldn’t ask for anything more out of a summer team. We’re just trying to get the wins back on track. We started off pretty strong and we’ve blustered a bit. I didn’t expect it to be this good.”

He’s also fired up for his junior year at UB under second-year coach Stu Riddle.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Hanson said. “He’s taught me so much about the game and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to play under a coach like that. He really challenges you every practice to get better and to compete at this high level.”

And when Hanson watches the NBA Draft this week, he’ll be rooting for his friend Andrew, though he hasn’t seen the busy prospect since Canada Day fireworks a couple years ago. And Hanson is hopeful that both Canada basketball and soccer are their way up.

“When the next Olympics come, maybe 2020, Canada Basketball will definitely have grown at a really big rate,” Hanson said. “I think there are eight first round picks this year that are Canadian, guys I played with and against like Tyler Ennis and Nick Stauskas. They don’t get as much limelight as Wiggins does but they are really good players. And Anthony Bennett being drafted first overall last year, he didn’t really have a good year but there’s a lot of talent.

“Soccer it’s the same thing. I just feel like now, basketball went through their hardships. Soccer’s going through it now and with the new head coach coming in and developing the youth more, he’s bringing a lot of young guys to national camps. The soccer will start to come on the rise, maybe on a 8-10 year plan and build the system from the ground up.”

Hanson and FC Buffalo next play on Friday at AFC Cleveland in a Rust Belt Derby match before a Sunday road trip to Michigan to take on Lansing United.

Hanson isn’t the only FCB player with a high-profile connection, as former Wolves defender Josiah Snelgrove played travel hockey against NHL superstar Sidney Crosby when he was young.