This weekend, any and all uncertainty on the matter of Andrew Wiggins' summer plans was put to rest. Canada Basketball, which had hoped to have one of the best young players in the world around for its under-19 FIBA World Championships bid in Prague in late June, announced that Wiggins had decided to forgo the trip. Instead, he'll stay in Lawrence, Kan., where he can get a head start on workouts and prep for his much-anticipated 2013-14 freshman campaign.
It's not a huge story, all things considered. Bill Self previously told reporters he expected Wiggins to commit at least some of his time to Team Canada, and seemed cool with the idea. He'll be glad to have Wiggins around, no doubt, and Wiggins can get acquainted with Allen Fieldhouse and Massachusetts Street, I guess. Other than that there's not much here.
Right now, that is. As part of Team Canada's announcement, Rowan Barrett, executive vice-president and assistant general manager of the Canadian senior men's program, released the following statement:
"At 18 years old, Andrew has a long basketball career ahead of him. Andrew’s decision to prepare himself this summer for the upcoming season is a decision we acknowledge. Our team will miss Andrew this summer, but we remain focused on Andrew's long-term development and our organizational goals for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and beyond."
Which is smart (as Eric Angevine notes). There's no point in alienating Wiggins over a U19 tournament, not with the 2016 Olympics on the horizon. It also hammers home something I hadn't even considered. Canada is going to be really good.
After all, Wiggins is just the latest highly touted Canadian prospect. Canada in the last few years has produced a wealth of talented NBA prospects. Tristan Thompson is developing nicely for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Myck Kabongo should be a solid if unspectacular pro guard. Andrew Nicholson has a nice perimeter touch for a big man and he might be best-utilized in the international game. Kris Joseph was drafted out of Syracuse last summer. Cory Joseph is playing spot minutes for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Nik Stauskus is a lights-out shooter. Kevin Pangos is going to be one of the best guards in the country this season. Kelly Olynyk was a beast last year. And Anthony Bennett will be a top-five pick in this summer's draft. There are surely more.
There are more coming. Besides Wiggins, the 2013 ESPN 100 includes two Canadians: No. 20-ranked Syracuse commit Tyler Ennis, and No. 44-ranked Florida State prospect Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Colleague Myron Medcalf explained last July how Canada suddenly started producing all these NBA players.
What Myron found in Canada was a kind of perfect storm. In the 1970s, the Canadian government relaxed its immigration laws, which caused a host of immigrants to rush to Toronto, which is now one of the world's most diverse cities (according to government data, 49 percent of Toronto's residents were born outside the country) and the fifth-most populous metropolitan area in North America. As their children grew up, the NBA's expansion into Canada and Steve Nash's success gave immigrant kids identifiable hoops heroes, and quite possibly saved a generation of talented athletes from spending their gifts trying to become the next Wayne Gretzky. And now here we are.
None of which is to say Canada is ever going to beat the United States at basketball. But Canada should be internationally competitive -- in the same way Argentina and Germany and even Spain are internationally competitive -- in the matter of years, not decades.
At the very least, we can safely say our northern neighbors' long-term basketball prospectus is at its all-time high.