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Despite being in the early stages of his NBA career as a rookie, Kelly Olynyk has already shown signs of great potential in professional basketball. Like any other Canadian who chooses a career in the sport, the giant twenty-two year old has already diminished the usual American-Canadian mockery of opting to play basketball over ice hockey through strong performances for the Boston Celtics. Olynyk is widely considered to be among the leading lights in the new wave of Canadian talent to make their way over to America. His progression can only be enhanced by being on the same roster as Jeff Greene and Rajon Rondo, but head coach Brad Stevens has a potential star on his hands.
Born and raised in Toronto, Olynyk was always likely to have a career in the sport through his parents’ background in basketball. His father Ken enjoyed spells as head coach of the University of Toronto (1989-2002) and the Canadian junior men’s national team (1983-1996), with his most notable moment being the decision to drop Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash from the national side. His mother Arlene worked as a women’s basketball referee in the Interuniversity Sport Championship in Canada before being hired by the Toronto Rapids between 1995 and 2004, with scorekeeper being one of numerous jobs she kept. It was his father’s decision to take an athletic director role at Thompson Rivers University in 2003 that not only led the family to move to Kamloops, but also be the start of Kelly’s career in basketball.
Although Kelly Olynyk’s talent became instantly apparent early on, he chose to continue his education in Canada instead of moving to an American high school like many other elite Canadian prospects. His exposure to American competition and high level coaching came during summer schools and making the grade in Canada’s junior team. Olynyk’s natural growth spurt peaked at 6’10” in grade 11 which made him ideal for the point guard position – a role in which he developed and excelled. Upon joining Gonzaga College in 2009 to begin a Masters degree in Business Administration, he immediately integrated himself into the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team. His performances, particularly during the 2012-2013 college season in which he averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 32 games, alerted NBA teams to his undoubted potential.
Opting to put himself forward for the NBA draft ahead of finishing his studies, Olynyk was snapped up by the Dallas Mavericks in 2013 as the 13th overall pick. Instead of starting his professional NBA career in Dallas, Olynyk was immediately traded to the Boston Celtics amid predictions that he would have the biggest career from the rookie class of 2013. Following the Celtics’ poor start to the season, going 0-4, Brad Stevens put his faith in the young Canadian to turn the team’s fortunes around. Although the team may not be hitting the heights expected with the wealth of talented players on their roster, Olynyk’s impact in the NBA was illustrated through his nomination for Rookie of the Month for October/November. Unfortunately, his immediate impact has been put on hold following a sprained ankle injury picked up in the 97-82 loss to the Indiana Pacers which may be worse than first feared. Without the young forward/center, the Celtics’ NBA betting odds may be affected. Although fans should not put too much pressure on the rookie Canadian to be the savior, the Boston Celtics look a much stronger force with Kelly Olynyk in their line-up.