Canadian national team general manager Steve Nash has high hopes for his country’s basketball future. As for its more immediate present, the future Hall-of-Famer seems cautiously optimistic at best. Why? Despite a group of players more talented than any other our northern neighbor has ever assembled, Canada’s long-term strength is its short-term weakness: youth.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and rising University of Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray highlight the country’s 16-man training camp roster for September’s FIBA Americas. A record 10 NBA players will take part in the tryouts, including 2013 No. 1 overall pick and Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Anthony Bennett, Boston Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk, Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph, Philadelphia 76ers sharp-shooter Nik Stauskas, and 7-foot-5 Sacramento Kings center Sim Bhullar, the first player of Indian descent to ever play in the league.
Wiggins and Murray, though, are Canada’s real stars – for today and tomorrow.
You already know about the Timberwolves’ high-flying wing. After a poor start to his inaugural pro campaign, Wiggins came on like gangbusters over the second half of 2014-2015, exhibiting the sky-high two-way potential that’s had so many forecasting his imminent superstardom for years to come. The next step in his development? Honing his handle and long-range jumper. And considering the immense strides he made during his rookie season, it seems only a matter of time until Wiggins boasts the extremely well-rounded game to match his otherworldly athleticism.
Murray isn’t quite a household name yet. The 18-year-old reclassified from the Class of 2016 to Class of 2015 after a dominant showing at April’s Nike Hoop Summit, subsequently committing to John Calipari and the Wildcats. Excitement surrounding the 6-foot-4 guard’s arrival in Lexington only reached a real fever pitch late last month, though, when he went bonkers late to lead Canada over USA Basketball’s C-team in the semifinals of the Pan-American games. Murray’s pro future is less certain than Wiggins’, but barring a disappointing freshman year, go ahead and pencil him in for the high lottery of next June’s draft. He’s an ideal lead guard for the modern NBA.