Canada will be without its best player, Andrew Wiggins, as it tries to qualify for its first Olympic men’s basketball tournament since 2000.
“After much thought, consideration and speaking with my family, I will not be participating in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament with the Canadian Men’s National Team in July,” Wiggins reportedly said in a statement Friday. “As my third NBA season approaches, I understand my increased role with the Timberwolves and dedication to the upcoming season must have my total focus. We are building a championship contending team, which has always been my goal. This was definitely not an easy decision and I fully support and wish Team Canada nothing but success this summer.”
Canada Basketball announced 19 players for a tryout and training camp from Friday through Wednesday ahead of a winner-goes-to-Rio, six-team qualifying tournament in the Philippines from July 5-10.
The 19-man list does not include Wiggins, who led Canada in minutes and points at September’s FIBA Americas, where the team was stunned in the semifinals by Venezuela, forcing the Canadians to next month’s last-chance qualifying tournament.
It also does not include fellow NBA players Tristan Thompson (playing in the NBA Finals), Kelly Olynyk (shoulder surgery), Nik Stauskas and Trey Lyles and NBA Draft prospect Jamal Murray from the University of Kentucky.
The list is led by NBA guards Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis.
“Given the time of year, player availability is always changing. We’re continuing to talk to teams and players may become available as the summer progresses,” Canada general manager Steve Nash said in a press release. “Playing for your country is an honour, we have a deep pool of talent who are committed to playing for Canada and we’re ready to get to work.”
Canada will have its work cut out in the Philippines, where the field includes World bronze medalist France, which is expected to be led by Tony Parker.