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.
Hot shooting Australia Boomers take down Canada
Canada wrapped a two-game exhibition series against 2019 FIBA World Cup group H foe and commonwealth neighbor with a 81-73 loss to the hot shooting Australia Boomers.
Canada started off slow as Australia made their defensive adjustments, limiting the Canadians pick and roll opportunities by going under screens and trailed 13-6 early on but rallied with a 12-5 run to close the first-quarter with a 18-17 lead on a step-back jumper from Oshae Brissett.
The Canadian’s opened up the second-quarter with back-to-back triples from Aaron Best and Kaza Kajami-Keane for 26-19 lead with 7:27 to play. Australia responded with a 9-0 run to re-take the lead before Andrew Nembhard put a halt to the run with a easy lay-up and a Khem Birch inside basket put Canada up 33-30 at half-time after a low-scoring 20 minutes.
The action the picked in the third-quarter as both teams shot the ball extremely well, combining for a total of 56 points. Melvin Ejim scored Canada’s first five points and Khem Birch dominated the paint to give Team Canada a 48-38 advantage with 5:42 to play. Australia quickly found their stroke knocking down three-straight triples on their way to six in the quarter take a slim 60-59 lead after the third-quarter.
Canada’s offense dried-up in the fourth-quarter with just two points scored at the mid-way point as they settled for long jumpers and three-pointers and quickly found themselves down 70-61 with 4:43 to play in the game.
Khem Birch sparked a late Canadian run, scoring 6 straight points to cut the lead down to 3 points at 70-67 with 3:30 to play and finished with a game-high 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals. Oshae Brissett added 14 points and 5 rebounds. Kaza Kajami-Keane rounded out Canada’s double-figure scores with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and Melvin Ejim contributed with 9 points and 7 rebounds.
The Boomers knocked down 12-31 (38%) from downtown, after shooting just 3-for-13 in the first-half. The Canadians were a miserable 7-of-25 (28%) from the outside and struggled with turnovers with 16. The Aussies grabbed 12 offensive boards and won the battle of the glass with a 43-40 edge.
“I thought it was very positive for us these two games, I thought we played extremely well, we competed, we played as a team, last night we obviously shot the ball a little bit better from three-point land but overall I thought it was a very positive two days for us.” – shared Canada’s associate head coach Gordie Herbert after the game.
“We showed a lot of character these last two games, we had some guys not playing, but it was the same on their side. We played really tough, this is a great Australian team, they got a lot of great players and they are going to do very well. But I thought we showed promised and have the ability to compete no matter who we put on the floor.” – added Melvin Ejim.
Australia was led by Jock Landale with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Jonah Bolden added 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists and Chris Goulding with 10 points and 3 rebounds on 3-of -7 triples.
Canadian head coach Nick Nurse opted for a starting line-up that featured Andrew Nembhard, Philip Scrubb, Oshae Brissett, Kyle Wiltjer and Khem Birch while resting Kevin Pangos. The Boomers played without Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut.
Team Canada (2-2) will continue its FIBA World Cup preparations with a two-game series against New Zealand in Sydney, Australia on Tuesday August 20 and Wednesday August 21st.
Canada lays the boom defeats Australia 90-70
Canada opened-up a five-game pre-FIBA World cup exhibition schedule on foreign soil with an impressive 20-point, 90-70 win over Australia Boomers.
Playing with just one NBA player after inviting 17 to training camp, Canada dissected Australia’s poor pick and roll defense by controlling the tempo with outstanding guard play and timely three-point shooting.
Kevin Pangos 18 points, 6 assists , 4 steals, on 7-of-10 shooting, 4-of-6 triples paced five Canadian basketball players in double-figures.
“He just wants us to play aggressive and play with confidence and keep getting better, it’s a process, we don’t want to peak right now, we want to peak at the Worlds.” discussed Pangos post-game about head Coach Nick Nurse’s mentality coming into the physical affair against a team that is part of Canada’s group H at the World Cup.
19-year-old point-guard Andrew Nembhard finished with a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists playing a team-high 26 minutes.
“I’m just excited to be here, I feel like I’m supposed to be here and feel really comfortable on the court.” – opened-up Nembhard after the game.
Kaza Kajami-Keane came off the bench and hit a crucial three-pointer to end the third-quarter to restore orders for Canada and finished with 12 points. on 2-of-3 three-pointers. Kyle Wiltjer was crucial with 11 points and 6 rebounds including 3-of-6 from downtown.
Owen Klassen filling in for injured Olynyk was solid with 10 points and 4 rebounds. Philip Scrubb also chipped in with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Canada knocked down 13-of-32 (40%) triples and shot 36-of-79 (45%) from the the game.
Australia a team, loaded with NBA talent including Patty Mills, Joe Ingles (11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists), Andrew Bogut (10 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists), Matthew Dellavedova (0 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds) were held to just 6-of-34 shooting from three-pointers and struggled with 15 turnovers — largely due to Team Canada’s active hands on defense.
Mills finished with a game-high 20 points knocking down 4 of Australia’s 6 three-pointers on just 4-of-13 outside the arc.
Nick Nurse opted for a starting line-up that featured Philip Scrubb, Kevin Pangos, Oshae Brissett (3 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), Kyle Wiltjer and Khem Birch (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists). Both Brady Heslip and Melvin Ejim sat out this one out and will likely suit-up for the next game.
Canada improves to 2-1 in their 7-game pre-Fiba schedule and will take on the Aussies once again tomorrow as both teams get ready for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
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