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
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.
“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.
Raptors’ Nick Nurse to coach Canada at 2019 FIBA World Cup
Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors’ to their first-ever NBA championship – Nick Nurse has been officially named head coach of Canada’s Senior Men’s National (SMNT).
Rocking a fresh suit alongside a red tie and a Canadian pin flag, Nurse expressed gratitude and humbleness “truly honored to be sitting here in this position, I’m really am. Obviously, the last couple of months have been very humbling and really amazing to see the country, the city and everybody get excited about basketball in this country.” opened up Canada’s newest head coach during the press conference.
Nurse’s contract obligations with Team Canada are expected to last through the 2020 summer Olympic games in Tokyo. No salary details were released.
Team Canada is expected to release its full training camp roster before the end of June
“I’m looking forward to working with this talented group of young players, and to seeing what we can do on the competitive global basketball stage. I love the international game. I also see this as a real chance for me to learn from the world’s best, and for us to represent Canada with pride and distinction.”– expressed Nick Nurse.
Canada Basketball has been searching for a replacement since veteran head coach Jay Triano decided to step aside from the job on March 25, 2019 – as he was asked to re-apply for the position by general manager Rowan Barrett.
“Nick fits our Gold Medal Profile as he is a proven leader with extensive experience coaching FIBA, NBA and other professional leagues around the world. His coaching pedigree shows his ability to win at some of the highest levels and he has a tremendous understanding of the FIBA game and our Canadian NBA players. We strongly believe that this unique combination gives our players the best opportunity for success at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.” added Rowan Barrett.
After a long a interview process that further extended due to the Toronto Raptors’ winning their first-ever NBA Championship — Peter Yannopoulos and confirmed on by various sources — that Nick Nurse who will be responsible for leading what is expected to be a star-studded Team Canada and the upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Joining Nurse on the sideline will be Gordie Herbert as an associate head coach. Herbert recently left his Head Coach position with German BBL club Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. Herbert helped guide Canada to two World Cup qualification wins and is a former Toronto Raptors assistant coach (2008-2009).
Herbert is also expected to take over the coaching duties at the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifiers formerly known as FIBA Americas Championship. The tournament pits together the top teams from the Western Hemisphere and currently scheduled for November.
The rest of the coaching staff will be announced in the coming days. Canada has loaded exhibition schedule and is expected to face tough opposition in the group of death at the 2019 FIBA World cup in China.
Canada earns silver at 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championships
Canada’s U16 Men’s national team captured a third straight silver medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas championships falling 94-77 to the United States of America in the Gold medal game in Belem, Brazil.
The highly anticipated bout featuring the two top U16 FIBA-ranked teams in the world didn’t disappoint — showcasing upwards of a combined 10 potential NBA draftees.
Team Canada kept the game tight for the first 10 minutes and took their only lead of the game at 17-15 with 2:02 in to play, before a late triple gave the USA a 18-17 lead to close the quarter.
The USA took the game to the Canadians in the second-quarter, outscoring Canada 27-15 for a 45-32 half-time lead.
Caleb Houstan (Mississauga, Ont.) scored 25 points and three rebounds and finished as the championship’s second leading scorer with 22.8 points per game. Houstan, a silky smooth forward had a tournament high 29 points to become Canada’s top scorer in U16 FIBA Americas competition — breaking Kevin Pangos 28 point record from 2009.
Canada showed some bark in the third-quarter with solid defensive stretches and back-to-back dunks, cutting the lead to single digits on multiple occasions and closing in at 57-51 of the Americans with 4:34 to play.
The Americans rallied with a 13-6 run to end third-quarter for a comfortable 72-57 lead and put it in cruise control in the fourth-quarter — stretching the lead to a game-high 21 points.
Despite the loss, the final 17-point deficit ties the lowest spread between the two squads in five championship or semi-finals games at the FIBA Americas tournament.
Team Canada has now lost all five games against the USA at the FIBA U16 Americas championships — dropping three-straight gold medal games — 111-60 in 2017 and 77-60 in 2015 and two semi-finals encounters, 113-70 in 2011 and 126-78 in 2009.
Ryan Nembhard (Aurora, Ont) wrapped the tournament with another outstanding effort with 21 points, 9 assists and 2 rebounds. Nembhard led the tournament with a total of 54 assists, good for 9 per game, and was Canada’s second leading scorer at 14.3 points per game.
Enoch Boakye (Brampton, Ont) 12 points and 13 rebounds concluded the tournament with his third straight game in double-figures rebounding and was the third top rebounder in the competition at 10.8 per game. Boakye had of two of the tournaments top 10 rebounding performances with 17 against Mexico and 16 against Dominican Republic.
Both Houstan and Ryan Nembhard were named to the tournaments all-star team alongside Dominican Republic’s Jean Montero — including the USA’s Jalen Durne and tournament MVP Christopher Livingston.
Canada finished the tournament 5-1 with group B victories over Uruguay 101-63, Brazil 90-67, Puerto Rico 96-76 and wins over Mexico 95-78 and 97-81 over the Dominican Republic in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
The U16 Canadian squad has reached the podium five times since the inaugural, bi-annual American zone tournament kicked-off 10 years ago in 2009 — earning three silver and two bronze medals. Canada lost a heart-breaking 65-64 semi-finals loss to Argentina in 2013.
Canada has qualified for the 2020 U17 FIBA World Championships where they will look to improve from their 2018 4th-place finish.