- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

WACO, Texas (AP) - Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery played hockey as kids growing up in Canada. Nothing unusual there.

But both eventually preferred being on the basketball court instead of the ice, and that brought them together well south of home. The Baylor guards are now the “Eh! Team” for the NCAA tournament hopeful Bears.

They had never met until junior college transfer Chery made a recruiting trip to Waco last year and spent time with his fellow countryman. It didn’t long before they were friends living out the same goal of playing major college basketball.

“He’s a great guy, a very personable guy,” Heslip said. “When he came on his visit, we just hung out and everything was cool.”

Chery, then being recruited to take over as the starting point guard, immediately felt a connection with Heslip.

“We were talking about the same things, talking about how the U.S. is, how Canada is, what’s the differences,” Chery said. “It was really a big thing coming in this year and having Brady by my side.”

Heslip, in his third season at Baylor after transferring from Boston College, played his final regular-season home game for the Bears (20-10) on Tuesday night. He scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers after halftime. Chery added 16 points in the 74-61 victory over No. 16 Iowa State that was a big boost for their NCAA tournament resume.

The Bears play their regular-season finale Saturday at Kansas State. They’re still trying to clinch a top-six finish in the Big 12 standings for a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament.

Heslip and Chery each average more than 11 points a game, bettered only for Baylor by big man Cory Jefferson’s 13.3 points. The guards are among 97 players with Canadian hometowns on NCAA Division I rosters this season. Chery is from Montreal and Heslip is from Burlington, Ontario, near Toronto.

“It means a lot because our main sport back in Canada is hockey,” Chery said. “Having a chance to be able to play basketball and having other kids coming to the U.S. and playing basketball, it’s a great experience and it’s a great thing for us.”

As a kid and being from a basketball family, Heslip would also start to shift gears to basketball each winter. Even while playing hockey, he had already been playing in organized hoop leagues since age 3 or 4.

“Grade 7 or 8, I was really serious about it. I’d play all day, work out all day,” Heslip said. “In high school, same thing, play all the time. High school is where I got really serious, where I started setting goals, just kind of visualizing what I wanted to accomplish.”

Heslip started 73 games his first two seasons for the Bears, first going to an NCAA regional final and then being part of an NIT championship last year when he also played for Canada in the World University Games. Chery, born in Canada after his Haitian parents moved there, played on Canada’s junior men’s team in 2010.

Baylor was 1-2 during a stretch to start February without Chery starting because of an issue with his big toe. He didn’t play in a victory at Oklahoma State, then was limited to a combined 20 minutes and three points in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma.

Kenny and I have the same kind of values. We feel lucky that we’re here and we grew up with the same dreams of playing Division I basketball,” Heslip said. “In that sense, we soak it in a little bit different than these guys too because we’ve come from Canada where everyone dreams of playing at this stage, and so I think that we have a pretty great appreciation for what we get to do.”

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