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Gilgeous-Alexander, Wiggins headline Canada men's Olympic basketball roster


TORONTO — Canada Basketball general manager Rowan Barrett was clear about what the men's team can accomplish at the Paris Olympics.

"We are working towards climbing up to the top of that podium, we are going to this competition in Paris to win. … That's what we're stocked to do," he said.

NBA stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray headline the 20-man training camp roster preparing for the Games in July. Canada Basketball announced the team Wednesday afternoon and that training camp will be held June 28 to July 7 in Toronto.

The team is coming off a historic 2023 where it won its first-ever medal at a FIBA World Cup, defeating the United States for bronze last September in Manila, Philippines.

Canada qualified for the Olympics with a quarterfinal victory over Spain at the tournament. The men's appearance in Paris will be the program's first since the Sydney Games in 2000.

The seventh-ranked Canadians are in Group A with Australia and the winners of Olympic qualifying tournaments in Spain and Greece. Canada will open play against the Spain tournament winner on July 27 in Lille, France.

While 14 players made three-year commitments to the program back in 2022, and Barrett, among others, have been adamant about cohesion and continuity, the situation called for bringing in Canada's best — commitment or not.

Barrett pointed out that the team was already strong offensively but he wanted to improve the roster defensively.

"Evaluating ourselves coming out of the World Cup last year, we could see that there are still some areas that we need to grow," Barrett said at a press conference at the OVO Athletic Centre. "We're trying to get up to the top of the podium. It looks like two small steps, it is not. They are two large steps that you have to jump up.

"With these teams reloading all around the world, and looking at some specific areas that we felt we need to bolster and strengthen, we could not simply look within our core of athletes. We had to look within our whole entire player pool to give us what we believe we might need."

Wiggins is among those named to the roster that had not made a commitment.

The 10-year NBA veteran and one-time all-star and champion last played for Canada at its Olympic qualifying tournament back in 2021. Wiggins has been criticized in the past for not always being committed to Canada, but expressed an interest in being at the Games.

"Andrew Wiggins is a pro," Barrett said. "Every time he's been within our walls, he's played tremendous basketball. I wouldn't think that this moment would be any different. A healthy, strong Andrew Wiggins is a very, very good player."

On the other hand, longtime Canada guards Cory Joseph and Kevin Pangos were the only players from the 14-player commitment group that were not invited to camp.

Barrett said having to tell players they won't receive an invitation or are getting cut is a tough part of the job.

"We love these guys," Barrett said. "At the same time, ... we are putting together the strongest possible roster that we can put together in the areas that we believe we need in order to compete and be successful at the Olympics in Paris."

Twelve of the 20 players coming into training camp are NBA players, with that number set to increase with centre Zach Edey expected to be a first-round pick in next week's NBA draft.

Barrett said every player is expected to be in camp. That includes Murray. who didn't compete at the World Cup which came just two months after a rigorous season in which he won an NBA title.

"From everything I understand, he's ready, he wants to be here and he's going to be coming here with all his powers," Barrett said. "This is a player that's a tremendous player, I don't think I have to tell anybody what Jamal Murray's capable of."

"We'll manage his body and the bodies of some of the other athletes that had very long seasons, but we believe that we'll have a good plan in place to have him ready for Paris," he added.

Canada Olympic men's basketball team training camp roster:

Kyle Alexander (Hapoel Tel Aviv B.C.); Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Minnesota Timberwolves); RJ Barrett (Toronto Raptors); Trae Bell-Haynes (Casademont Zaragoza); Khem Birch (Bàsquet Girona); Oshae Brissett (Boston Celtics); Dillon Brooks (Houston Rockets); Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder); Zach Edey (Purdue); Melvin Ejim (Unicaja); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder); Mfiondu Kabengele (Venezia); Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings); Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets); Andrew Nembhard (Indiana Pacers); Kelly Olynyk (Toronto Raptors); Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks); Phil Scrubb (Bahçeşehir Koleji); Thomas Scrubb (Monbus Obradoiro); Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2024.