BROOKLYN — Andrew Wiggins will “most likely” play for Team Canada in this summer’s FIBA-Americas Olympic qualifying tournament, a huge piece of positive news for a Canadian federation that has been hoping and praying that the NBA’s most exciting rookie will play for his national team.
Wiggins gave me the “most likely” quote as he warmed up for the Rising Stars challenge Friday night at the Barclay’s Center.
When I pressed him and asked it he was 100 percent in, he hedged just a bit, saying he still has not finalized his plans for the summer. But the “most likely” quote was delivered enthusiastically.
Wiggins is the centerpiece of a young Canadian national team that hopes to be able to challenge for an Olympic gold medal by the time the 2020 Olympics are held in Tokyo.
“We obviously want all of our talented NBA players to represent Canada this summer as we hiost the Pan American games, and then try to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics,” national coach Jay Triano told SheridanHoops. “This is a big summer for us to finally put all the young pieces together.”
There are currently more than a dozen Canadian players competing in the NBA, including Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics, Cory Joseph of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, Dwight Powell of the Dallas Mavericks, Robert Sacre of the Los Angeles Lakers, Nik Stauskas of the Sacramento Kings, Tyler Ennis of the Phoenix Suns, Joel Anthony of the Detroit Pistons, Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic, and Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Qualification will take place at the Tournament of the Americans in Monterrey, Mexico from Aug. 25-Sept. 6., with the top two finishers qualifying for the 16-team field. Another two teams will be determined at EuroBasket 2015, and one team apiece will come from the FIBA-Africa, FIBA-Oceania and FIBA-Asia tournaments. Three other teams will come out of a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament early in the summer of 2016.
The United States has already qualified by winning the World Cup in Spain last summer, and will not be competing at FIBA-Americas tournament. Brazil qualifies by virtue of being the host nation.
Wiggins leads all NBA rookies in scoring, averaging 15.2 points per game. He is the runaway leader in our weekly Rookie Rankings, with Elfrid Payton of the Orlando Magic a distant second. Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft, was traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Bennett, in the deal that brought Kevin Love to the Cavaliers.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.