By JOSH NEWMANNEW YORK – Can Canada be a world power in basketball? We are likely still years away from answering that question, but the country best-known for ice hockey took an important move forward in basketball on Wednesday. Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrew Wiggins, one of the leading candidates for the Rookie of the Year award, said on Wednesday that he will play for the Canadian national team this summer as it tries to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000.Thompson, a 6-foot-11 fourth-year forward from the Cleveland Cavaliers, would be a huge coup for Triano and the national team, but it remains to be seen. Given the Cavs are among the favorites in the Eastern Conference, Thompson’s season could run into June and end up being over 100 games. Additionally, Thompson will be a restricted free agent this summer after reportedly turning down a four-year, $52 million extension last summer. Follow Josh Newman on Twitter
Andrew Wiggins says he is definitely playing for the Canadian national team this summer — Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) April 15, 2015“We are super-excited to have Andrew play along with all of our NBA players and players who play overseas,” Canadian national team head coach Jay Triano, a Trail Blazers assistant, told SNY.tv. “Our goal is to qualify for the Olympics with all of our best players playing for Canada.” Wiggins involvement with his national team is significant in that it gives it automatic credibility with a major world-level event looming in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Canada will need to go through Olympic qualifying at the FIBA Americas Tournament, which runs Aug. 25-Sept. 6 in Monterrey, Mexico. The top two teams from the 10-team event qualify for Rio. Canada has little positive basketball national team history to speak of. The Steve Nash-led 2000 team was the last to qualify for an Olympics, while it has never finished better than sixth at the World Championships dating back to 1950. With Wiggins in the mix, that could change, but it will need more than the Toronto native to make a big splash. Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson, Robert Sacre, Cory Joseph, Tyler Ennis and Nik Stauskas are among the NBA players who could suit up for Canada this summer.