The most promising basketball player to ever come out of a Canadian gym could take his talents to the National Basketball Association as early as 2014.
Andrew Wiggins, a 17-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., announced his reclassification into the 2013 recruiting class last month, meaning he will be eligible to turn pro and enter the NBA draft in 2014 – one year earlier than expected.
This news bodes well for Canada Basketball and the senior men’s national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games and potentially bringing home a medal for the first time since 1936.
Wiggins’ reclassification doesn’t change his status for 2016; he will be eligible to represent Canada regardless. It will, however, give him an extra year of experience to hone his skills in the NBA before attempting to lead Canada at the raw age of 21.
Of course, that’s assuming he even needs it.
The 6’7” small forward is the projected number one overall pick in 2014 – just as he was in 2015 and just as he probably would be in 2013. He’s that good.
He’s even drawn loose comparisons to LeBron James, who happens to be one of the most dominant players to ever play the game.
Most recently, ESPN’s director of basketball recruiting called Wiggins the best perimeter prospect since James. The fact that Wiggins is even mentioned in the same breath as “King James” is saying something.
And fortunately for Canada Basketball, he bleeds red and white.
“Playing for Canada, it’s an honour, it’s a pleasure,” Wiggins was quoted in a June 2012 Toronto Star article. “I love it, representing Canada wherever I go.”
Wiggins, whose father played in the NBA and mother competed in the Olympics as a sprinter, has already paid his dues with Canada’s junior national team and will surely join the senior squad sooner rather than later.
It could use the help.
Canada has never been a powerhouse basketball nation. For years, the senior men’s national team has been mediocre at best. It hasn’t qualified for the last three Olympic Games and finished a disappointing 22nd at the 2010 FIBA World Championships – a 24-team competition put on by the International Basketball Federation.
But with Wiggins as the poster boy, the tides are turning.
No one’s expecting Wiggins to lead Canada to the promise land on his own – a tall task for someone his age. And fortunately, he won’t have to.
The 2012-13 NBA season kicked off last week and a record eight Canadians featured on opening day rosters – five of which were drafted in the last two years.
This list includes Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson, the highest drafted Canadian-born player of all-time (fourth overall in 2011).
With the likes of top college prospects Myck Kabongo, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, Trey Liles, and Kyle Wiltjer (just to name a few) still to come, that number will certainly increase within the next few years.
Then, in 2014, it will be Wiggins’ time to shine. And he’ll have a full two years to adjust to the physical and psychological demands of the professional game before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
An extra year of experience may not seem like much, but at such a young age, it could make a drastic difference. James, for example, saw his average point total increase by seven points in his second year of play, and was named the league MVP the following season.
If Wiggins even comes close to that career path, then Canadian basketball fans are in for a treat.
With Steve Nash at the helm as general manager and an abundance of young talent ready and willing to play, the Canadian men’s basketball team has never been in better shape.
And the best part about it?
In 2016, it will only be scratching the surface.