NBA Rookie of the Year favorite Andrew Wiggins said Wednesday he will play for Canada at FIBA Americas in August and September, hoping to help the nation qualify for Olympic men’s basketball for the first time since 2000.
“I’m going to get a lot of rest,” Wiggins told reporters at Minnesota Timberwolves shootaround before he scored 23 points in a 138-113 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in his season finale. “I’ll be ready for it.”
Canada, under the tutelage of general manager Steve Nash, must make the FIBA Americas final to clinch a berth in the 2016 Olympics.
It won’t have to worry about the U.S. at the North and South American tournament, given the Americans earned their Rio berth by winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Canada was sixth at each of the last two FIBA Americas, failing to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but it has a wealth of young talent, including the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft — Anthony Bennett and Wiggins – as well as 2014 first-round picks Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis and NBA big men Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk.
Its biggest competition at FIBA Americas in Mexico could be Brazil, the Olympic host nation that has not yet been granted an automatic berth at Rio 2016. Also, 2004 Olympic champion Argentina, which will likely be without stalwart Manu Ginobili.
The nations that finish third, fourth and fifth at FIBA Americas will advance to a last-chance global Olympic qualifying tournament in July 2016.