Canada Basketball Is On The Rise Like Never Before


Canada Basketball is on the rise, and this summer is only the beginning 

America’s little brother to the North is poised for a basketball resurgence.

Basketball in Canada has always placed a distance second to hockey, often times third to baseball when it comes to popularity. That all may be changing as a new wave of talent threatens to push Canada Basketball to new heights.

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Andrew Wiggins is the former top overall draft pick and current NBA Rookie of the Year that has become the face of the program. But it’s not only because of Wiggins that Canada Basketball is poised for big things.

There are currently 15 players in the NBA who can play for Canada Basketball. While some of those options are old and no longer good fits – Joel Anthony and Samuel Dalembert – and others are fringe NBA talent, there’s still a lot of good potential selections for the national team. That, combined with vets who have years of experience playing for the national team, in addition to the with young bucks playing big roles for NCAA teams means there’s a great mix of youth and experience in the program.

Anthony Bennett has struggled to make his mark in the NBA, after being the top overall pick two years ago, but he looked great this summer playing for Canada Basketball in the Pan Am games. Bennett has looked like a bust so far in the NBA after a laundry list of medical conditions  – shoulder, sleep apnea, ankle issues and vision problems top the list – have prevented him from staying on the court.

Bennett averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game during the Pan Am games and will be a key cog next month during FIBA America’s Mens Championships in Monterrey, Mexico.

One of the young kids in the program to keep an eye on is incoming Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray. Murray wasn’t a big name in the States, as he stayed in Ontario to play high school basketball, but the kid has been on a great upswing ever since he was named co-MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.

Since then, Murray committed to Kentucky and was the catalyst to the senior men team winning their first medal (Silver at Pan Am Games).

The talented 18-year-old showed a flair for the dramatic and had some huge moments in July playing in the Pan Am Games.

During the past few months, we’ve seen Murray’s buzz grow to the fact the mock drafts have him pegged as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Tristan Thompson sat out the Pan Am Games, as he’s currently working on his next NBA contract, but he’s one of the NBA’s best rebounders on the offensive end, and has played for the national team the past few seasons. If all goes well, he’s expected to suit up for Canada in FIBA America’s Mens Championship.

It was with the national team last summer that Thompson tried to switch shooting hands.

Cory Joseph also skipped the Pan Am Games, as he was a free agent. Joseph is rumoured to be returning to the national team in September for the FIBA tournament in Mexico.

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Another young point guard, Tyler Ennis, was a first round draft pick a year ago and wants to suit up for a national team, but a shoulder injury will keep him sidelined this time around. He’ll be ready to contribute to the program starting next summer.

A three-headed monster of Joseph, Ennis and Murray will be a formidable punch for head coach Jay Triano to utilize.

New Mexico guard Daniel Mullings is an under the radar player that had a solid showing this summer in the Pan Am Games.

Other young players like Dillon Brooks (Oregon Ducks) and Nik Stauskas (Philadelphia) look poised to play countless summers with the national team as wing players alongside Wiggins.

Versatile big men Kelly Olynyk, Trey Lyles and Andrew Nicholson will provide Canada with the kind of “stretch” bigs that are huge for success in international competition.

Canada may not have the flashy names like LeBron James, Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant that the United States has, but they have some key pieces and some great role players that are poised to fit well into the style of play teams need to have while playing in international competitions.

The first step for Canada in earning respect is qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Next: Predicting the 2016 Team USA Olympic basketball roster