With a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics on the line, Canada is sending its very best talent to the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.
Not typically regarded as a basketball powerhouse (they have qualified for the Olympics once in the past seven Games), Canada’s talent pool has been quickly increasing over the last several years, as more kids are choosing the hardwood over hockey. Two of the last three No. 1 draft picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, are Canadian. In 2014, there were two top-10 picks (Wiggins and Nik Stauskas) from Canada and four Canadians drafted overall. At the 2015 Pan American Games, Canada took home a medal (silver) for the first time in 16 tournaments.
Canada hasn’t finished better than fourth at the FIBA Americas since 2001. But with the United States and Brazil already qualified for the Olympics, the path is wide open for this burgeoning powerhouse to earn a top-two finish and a spot in Rio.
Here’s a look at the complete roster that will be competing in Mexico over the next two weeks:
Canada FIBA Americas Roster
Anthony Bennett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Aaron Doornekamp, Braunschweig (Germany)
Melvin Ejim, Orlando Magic
Brady Heslip, Pallacanestro Cantù (Italy)
Cory Joseph, Toronto Raptors
Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks
Robert Sacre, Los Angeles Lakers
Phil Scrubb, AEK Athens (Greece)
Nik Stauskas, Philadelphia 76ers
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Team Canada Breakdown
At the Pan Am Games in July, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Nicholson led the way for Canada. Bennett put up 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while Nicholson averaged 18.2 and 8.0, including 31 and 10 against the United States. They (as well as teenage superstar Jamal Murray, who isn’t on the FIBA Americas roster) were Canada’s clear go-to players, but head coach Jay Triano will have several other options in Mexico.
That starts, of course, with Andrew Wiggins.
The 2014 No. 1 pick and NBA Rookie of the Year is an electrifying scorer. Blessed with size and unreal athleticism, he’s especially lethal in the open court, but he can also shoot and create his own offense pretty well:
Leading Canada to a 4-0 record in the Marchand Cup, a FIBA Americas warm-up tournament, Wiggins averaged 14.5 points in just 25 minutes per game.
While there may be defensive concerns with this squad, it should be able to shoot teams out of the gym. Although Wiggins is known as a better creator than shooter, he knocked down five threes in the Marchand Cup. Then there’s Brady Heslip and Nik Stauskas, two of the most deadly three-point shooters on the planet. Even the big guys, Bennett, Nicholson and Kelly Olynyk, are all extremely comfortable stepping away from the basket and stretching the floor.
Point-guard play may be the biggest question mark, as team captain Cory Joseph really struggled during the Marchand Cup. He’s not too concerned, though.
“Every day, we’re getting better … getting a better handle with each other, getting more familiar,” he said.
That should be a scary thought for the other nine teams in Mexico. Team Canada is full of talent and looks primed to take the next step in its rise to international basketball dominance.
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