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Andrew Wiggins: On the Low

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Andre Wiggins On The Low
Photo: FIBA

Andrew Wiggins makes as much noise with silence as most players do when they scream.

He uses words sparingly, keeps his guard up, lets his game speak.

So far, it works.

At just 23, he is arguably the best Canadian player in history other than Steve Nash.

He is the highest-paid Canadian athlete ever, a potential all-star on a promising Minnesota Timberwolves squad that figures to be contender long into the future.

He is probably not the next LeBron James, as headlines led us to believe when he was destroying rims at Huntington Prep. He was a better-than-average college player, and he is a better-than-average pro.

Still, when his game speaks it says: “Kobe in his prime.”

It says: “Ridiculous potential.”

It says: “Biggest thing out of Toronto since Drake.”

And through it all, Wiggins says very little on his own. He has mastered the art of the boring non-answer, the kind of rote response that send reporters elsewhere when they need quotes.

He makes as much noise with his absence as he does with his presence, and that is why his absence was all anyone talked about when Canada Basketball announced its preliminary roster for the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament this week.

The list is full of big-name players who, pundits say, are proof of a golden age of Canadian basketball.

Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets star. Tristan Thompson, NBA champion. Cory Joseph of the Indiana

Andre Wiggins On The Low JumpShot

Andre Wiggins – On The Low

Pacers. Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies. Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat.

Chris Boucher. Khem Birch. Dwight Powell.

NBA players, all.

Everyone else on the list is a second-tier pro, either in Europe or the G-League. They could realistically qualify for the FIBA World Cup, and then possibly the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Most of the big names were there.

Wiggins’ was not.

Basketball writers felt his absence, heard his silence, and filled it for him.

They struggled to understand why he would not play for his country.

TSN’s Josh Lewenberg cited multiple sources noting his “strained relationship” with head coach Jay Triano, apparently over a benching at the 2015 FIBA Americas in Mexico City.

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“His initial desire was to play,” said Rowan Barrett, assistant GM and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program, according to the Canadian Press.

“I do think he had some circumstances come up that are going to limit his ability to play for us in June. The door is open for September potentially as well.”

Canada plays three games in British Columbia and one game in Toronto in June, concluding the first round against the U.S. Virgin Islands in Ottawa on July 2.

“The new qualification structure has showcased the depth of our program, that we have grown over several years,” said Barrett in a statement.

“Hosting meaningful games at home on Canadian soil is an experience our players won’t ever forget.”

Triano reportedly downplayed Wiggins’ absence.

“My goal is to focus on players that are here,” he told reporters in a conference call. “Guys are going to miss for different reasons.”

There was speculation Nik Stauskas, the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard, was also unhappy with how Triano used him in 2015, prompting another no-show.

But most of the media blather focused on Wiggins, the freakishly talented small forward who would likely have been a centrepiece of the team.

“Two weeks in late June — all in Canada — doesn’t seem like too much to ask,” wrote Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.

Which begs the question: Who are we to say?

But this is what happens when Wiggins makes his absence felt, when his silence hangs in the air.

He is the quiet superstar, the medalist-in-waiting, the generational player who could solidify Canada as a basketball superpower.

The good news is, he is still just 23 years old, likely half a decade away from his prime, and arguably the second-best player this country has produced.

His game continues to speak, telling us more than he is likely to reveal with words.

Our task is to watch, to listen, and trust that when the time is right, he’ll say his piece.

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FIBA

Triano steps aside as Canadian national team coach

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Jay Triano Olympic Dot Ca

Jay Triano has officially stepped down as the head coach of Canada’s senior men’s national team.

Canada Basketball made the announcement this morning, confirming media reports that circulated on Sunday.

“I can’t thank Jay enough for all he has done for basketball in Canada,” said Glen Grunwald, president and CEO of Canada Basketball, in a statement.  

“As both a coach and player, Jay is a Canadian icon and has played a major role in the development of basketball within our country and we will forever be grateful for his contributions. 

Jay Triano 2 Olympic Dot CA
Jay Triano is among the most accomplished coaches in Canadian history. Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

“After speaking with Jay, I’m hopeful we can find a role where he can continue to contribute to Canada Basketball in the future.”

Triano is the first Canadian-born and Canadian-trained coach to work in the NBA, starting as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors in 2002 and later promoted to head coach.

He is currently the lead assistant coach with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

As head coach of Canada’s national team from 1998 to 2004, Triano led the team to a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Canada has not returned to the Olympics since then, but it figures to be a contender to play at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Triano returned as head coach in 2012, guiding the club to a pair of victories during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers.

As a player, Triano served with Canada’s national team from 1977 to 1988 and was team captain for the final seven years of his tenure.

He was elected to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Roy Rana Canada's National Basketball Team Coach Sitting FIBA Qualifiers Pointing
Roy Rana 2019 FIBA Americas Qualifiers – Photo: FIBA

Ryerson University head coach Roy Rana is among three other candidates being granted interviews to replace Triano, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.

The other candidates are Gord Herbert, who played for Canada at the 1984 Olympics; and Ettore Messina, an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

A final decision is expected by March 31.

Multiple reports say Triano cited “personal reasons” for taking his name out of the running, but he did not elaborate.

Team Canada’s next major test will be the 2019 FIBA World Cup, starting Aug. 31 in China.

Triano steps aside at a high point in Canadian basketball, with dozens of players in the NBA and at elite NCAA schools, including Barrett’s son R.J. Barrett, a Duke University standout who is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

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FIBA

Canada draws Group of Death 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup

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Cory Joseph Canada Basketball Draws Group Of Death 2019 Fiba World Cup

Canada’s path to a 2019 FIBA basketball World Cup medal and hopes of a 2020 Olympic berth took a serious blow prior to the start of the games as No. 23 Team Canada was drawn into the group of death — alongside global powerhouses No. 6 Lithuania, No. 11 Australia, and No. 37 Senegal.

2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Groups

2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Groups

For Canada to have a shot at getting to the podium they will have to finish in the top two spots of Group H to advance to second round of the tournament — where the top 16 teams will be split into four new groups (Groups I, J, K, L). If it reaches that stage Team Canada will once again have to finish in the top two to advance to the quarter-finals.

Canada’s road to the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics is a complex and tough process — given FIBA’s decision to make the World Cup apart of the qualification process. Seven spots are currently up for grabs at FIBA’s flagship event and with hosts Japan earning an automatic entry the room for error is minuscule.

To reach the Olympics, Canada will have to finish as one of the top two teams from the seven team America’s region that features the world’s number one squad in the United States of America alongside traditional mainstays Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezula and Puerto Rico.

If Canada is unable to secure a spot as one of the two top America’s region teams, they will hope to be amongst the top 16 teams at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup where they will be granted automatic qualification to a last chance tournament taking place next summer at a yet to be determined locations. If unable to finish in the top 16, Canada’s last hope would be one of the last eight countries that FIBA would invite for one of the last-chance qualifier tournaments.

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Therefore, if Canada has any hopes of qualifying for the 12-team 2020 Summer Olympics via the World Cup they will need to advance from Group H one as top two teams, failure to advance in the premilinary round will automatically put Canada’s hopes at the mercy FIBA via the invitation tournament only.

Should Canada reach the second-round they will be placed in the newly formed Group L, alongside Group G winner and runner-up — potentially setting up another group of death with No. 3 France, No. 11 Germany, No. 11 Australia or No. 6 Lithuania.

To make matters worse for the Canadians, they have been pooled on the same half of the draw as the United States — which would mean a potential quarter-finals match-up between the two neighbouring nations, if Canada can somehow get there.

If the Canadians can reach the quarter-finals there is a good chance they alongside the USA would be last two standing Americas teams — thus earning automatic berth to Tokyo 2020.

As evident, by the World Cup draw and given FIBA’s recent changes it’s clearly going to be a tough road for the Canadians to fullfill their 2020 vision of becoming a global basketball powerhouse.

Canada opens up the World Cup against Australia on Saturday August 31st and will take on Lithuania on two days rest on Monday September 2nd beforing concluding Group H action against Senegal on Wednesday September 4th, 2019. All of Canada’s preliminary round games will be played in Dongguan, China

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