With the ongoing Pan-American Games and the FIBA Americas Championships scheduled for late August, this summer is an important one for Canada Basketball as head coach Jay Triano looks to lead the team to a spot in next summer’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Saturday the team for the Pan-American Games was announced, and among the 12 players who will suit up for Triano are three who will play college basketball next season.
Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray all made the cut, as did current NBA players Anthony Bennett (Minnesota), Andrew Nicholson (Orland0) and Sim Bhullar (Sacramento).
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There are other recent ties to college basketball on the roster, with guards Junior Cadougan (played at Marquette), Brady Heslip (played at Baylor) and Daniel Mullings (played at New Mexico State), and forward Melvin Ejim (played at Iowa State) being selected. Aaron Dornekamp and Carl English complete Canada’s roster for the Games, with competition in men’s basketball beginning July 21.
All three current college players on the roster have prior international experience, with Brooks being a member of Canada’s U19 team that played at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Crete earlier this summer. Brooks was one of the top scorers in Crete, averaging 18.8 points (second in the event), 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Wiltjer represented Canada at the World University Games two years ago, and Murray played for Canada’s U17 team in last summer’s FIBA U17 World Championships.
Entering Sunday’s FIBA Americas U16 gold medal match with Canada the United States had never lost a game in the brief history of the event, going 19-0 with the majority of those wins being by comfortable margins. But they were definitely challenged by a Canadian squad led by the tournament’s top rebounder in 2018 forward Simi Shittu, as Canada led 19-3 at the end of the first quarter with the Americans shooting 1-for-17 from the field.
The United States trailed by as much as 20 (23-3) before turning things around, with 2017 prospects Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt leading the way. They eventually took their first lead of the game in the third quarter, grabbing control of the game in the final six minutes and winning by the final score of 77-60.
However the final margin, coming as a result of the United States closing the game on a 28-5 run, is not a true indicator of how tough the game was.
Shittu led Canada with 18 points and 14 rebounds, with Rowan Barrett Jr. adding 13, and early on they managed to limit the easy looks the United States was able to find against lesser competition. But Vanderbilt (19 points, ten rebounds) served as the catalyst in the second quarter, with Trent Jr. (19 points, six rebounds) and Carter stepping forward in the second stanza.
Both teams struggled with turnovers, combining for 49, but the United States was able to get better looks in the second half and ultimately finished with 46 points in the paint to Canada’s 30.
FIBA has the World Championships for U19 in late June and the Canadian national team has a number of Division I college basketball players trying out for its team. A 19-man tryout group was assembled for June 6-10 and Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, Harvard forward Chris Egi, Missouri wing Montaque Gill-Caesar, UNLV guard Jalen Poyser and Seattle guard Jadon Cahee made the list.
UNLV commit Justin Jackson is also trying out for the team and there are a few other potential Division I prospects among the group. This same Canada group captured the silver medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 championships in Colorado Springs, so they’re going to be one of the stronger teams in the field.
Some of these players could greatly benefit from playing in this competition and it’ll be interesting to see if Canada can make a push for another medal.