Will Jamal Murray and Dillon Brooks Help Canada Qualify For The 2016 Rio Olympics? | Zagsblog
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Monday / January 30.
  • Will Jamal Murray and Dillon Brooks Help Canada Qualify For The 2016 Rio Olympics?

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    JAMAL MURRAYBy JOSH NEWMAN

    The Canadian national team has a history of having its best players play up at the senior level at a young age. For example, Leo Rautins made his senior national team debut in 1977 at just 16, while Steve Nash made his debut in 1993 at 19.

    With that history acting as the backdrop to a critical summer that will culminate with the FIBA Americas Championship next month, Canada is getting ready to do the same thing with two of its brightest young stars. Canada released its training camp roster for the Pan American Games on Friday morning with Kentucky freshman point guard Jamal Murray and Oregon sophomore wing Dillon Brooks on it. 

    This is not an accident, nor is it merely a reward for being good players. Murray and Brooks are part of the next wave of Canadian stars and both are expected to be key pieces on future national teams. That said, the teenagers are getting a jump on their experience later this month at Pan Am, which will be contested in Toronto.

    “I think it’s huge because we’ve had a history of young players representing Canada,” Canada head coach Jay Triano, a Trail Blazers assistant, said on a conference call Friday morning. “I think the sooner we get them involved with our national team programs, it really helps in their development as players, but it really helps in their passion for wanting to represent their country. That’s the thought behind this.”

    Triano noted that Murray was held back from the ongoing FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Greece this month with an eye on having Murray play up at Pan Am. Meanwhile, Brooks has starred for Canada’s U-19 national team, which lost in the quarterfinals on Friday morning to Croatia.

    “With Dillon, I’ve been in contact with (Canadian U-19 head coach) Roy (Rana) over in Greece and he’s just been having an outstanding tournament,” Triano said of Brooks, who is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in Greece. “We think he’s a player that will help us in the future as well.”

    Barring something unforeseen at this point, both will make the 12-man Pan Am roster. The question then becomes, can either or both find their way onto the national team at the FIBA Americas Championship? That event in Mexico will act as Olympic qualifying from Aug. 31-Sept. 12. The top two teams will advance to the 2016 Olympics.

    Canada has not qualified for an Olympics since Nash captained the 2000 team in Sydney, which finished seventh. Additionally, no Canadian team has medaled at an Olympics or World Championships since the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

    “We’re gonna do whatever we can to win a medal at the Pan American Games and to watch these players develop,” Triano said. “If we feel that one of these guys can help us gain a qualification spot at the Olympics, they’re going to be on that team later this summer.”
    Triano’s hope was that Canada’s growing crop of NBA players would participate in Pan Am, especially with it being in Toronto, but NBA issues understandably are taking precedence. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk and Nik Stauskas have Summer League commitments, while others like Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Robert Sacre of securing new contracts.
    That’s the bad news. The good news is that Triano expects all of those guys to be available for Olympic qualifying. Wiggins, arguably Canada’s best young star and the 2015 Rookie of the Year, previously told reporters he would play for the national team this summer. 
    “At the end of the Pan American Games, we’re going to do a complete evaluation of all the players that represented Canada and we’re going to sit down as a staff and figure out how we’re going to qualify for the Olympics,” Triano said. “The Olympic Qualifying Tournament, it’s no secret, is a big event for us this summer. Our NBA players know that, even the NBA teams know that.”

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