Canada general manager Steve Nash said his national team has a “50-50” shot at qualifying for the Rio Olympics this summer, but if it does, a medal is possible.
Canada has not won an Olympic basketball medal since the first Olympic men’s basketball tournament in 1936. It has not qualified a men’s team since 2000, when Nash played.
But the 41-year-old is excited about the possible roster for 2016.
Team Canada could include the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft — Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins – as well as 2014 first-round picks Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis, NBA big men Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph.
Nash agreed that it’s a golden age of Canadian basketball in a TSN radio interview.
“I expect us to qualify, but that is going to be a beast of a qualification,” he said.
The next step in qualification is at FIBA Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, in August and September. The two finalists from FIBA Americas will earn spots in a 12-team 2016 Olympic field.
The U.S. clinched a spot in the Rio Olympics by winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup and does not have to play at FIBA Americas. Brazil, too, is expected to be given a place in the 2016 Olympic tournament as host nation, though that hasn’t been made official yet.
That would leave FIBA Americas host Mexico, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Argentina, Puerto Rico (which beat the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics), the Dominican Republic (with Al Horford) and Canada as the top nations fighting for those two Olympic berths this summer.
“It’s an incredibly difficult group of guys that have played international basketball for a long time, played together,” Nash said. “And we’ve got a group that’s basically under 24, never played together and never played the international game in any real, meaningful capacity, especially collectively.”
Even if Canada does not qualify for Rio at FIBA Americas, it could get another chance at a last-chance qualifying tournament in 2016.
“The sky’s the limit, but I am by no stretch writing our name down to go to the Olympics,” Nash said. “I think our wheelhouse would be a medal-type team for the Olympics after this, 2020.”
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