REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) – When one thinks about world basketball powers, Canada does not usually come to mind. But all that can change following Steve Nash's appointment as General Manager of the Men’s National Team.
There is definitely enough talent coming through the ranks for the North Americans to target success in the future.
“I’m thrilled to be able to take on this challenge," Nash said at a press conference on Tuesday to announce his new role.
"We have lots of work to do and I'm excited to get started.
"With the talent we are developing in this country, Canada has an opportunity to become one of the top basketball nations in the world."
"There is no reason why, if we nurture and support these great young players and give them the tools they need, that we can't be a medal contender at the Olympics.”
Canada last appeared at the Olympics in 2000 when Nash helped them to seventh place. The Sydney Games were also the Canadians’ last Quarter-Final showing at a world event.
One of the main tasks for Nash is to provide “leadership and inspiration” to the national team program.
The two-time NBA MVP will definitely provide a wealth of experience for an impressive group of young Canadians to draw upon.
One of the biggest talents is 21-year-old forward Tristan Thompson, who was selected with the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers after being named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year for Texas.
He had a strong rookie season in 2011-12 for the Cavs with nine double-doubles and will be a big presence for Team Canada in the very near future.
Meanwhile, Cory Joseph played at two FIBA U19 World Championships (2007 and 2009) and a McDonald’s All-Star Game before making it on the Big 12 All-Rookie Team alongside Thompson at Texas. He was a first round pick by the San Antonio Spurs last year.
The 20-year-old made his debut with the senior national team last summer at the FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina, as did center Kelly Olynyk, 21, from Gonzaga.
While Joseph and Olynyk have already moved into the senior team, Nash will most likely urge for a massive generation change. And the talent is on hand.
Kyle Wiltjer, whose father Gregory Wiltjer played for Canada at the 1984 Olympics and teamed with Nash at the 1994 FIBA World Championship, played only minor role for the NCAA champions Kentucky Wildcats this season. But the 19-year-old forward will likely take over more responsibility his second season in Lexington.
The tandem of 17-year-old guard Andrew Wiggins and 19-year-old forward Anthony Bennett helped Canada to the bronze medal at the 2010 U17 World Championship. They then teamed together with the World Select Team at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit and beat the United States team.
Labeled by many as the next Steve Nash, 19-year-old playmaker Kevin Pangos was also on the 2010 U17s Worlds team and then played at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. He represented Canada at last summer's FIBA U19 World Championship in Riga, Latvia, before putting together a great freshman collegiate season for Gonzaga.
After playing superbly at the 2010 U17 Worlds, forward Dyshawn Pierre, 18, was even more impressive in Latvia and is not far from reaching the senior team.
Another point guard who could help the national team soon is 22-year-old Junior Cadougan, who played at the U18 Albert Schweitzer Tournament in 2006 as a 15-year-old and helped Marquette University to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament the last two years.
And waiting to possibly fill the post for Team Canada down the road are the giant brothers Bhullar – the 2.26m 19-year-old Singh and the 2.18m 17-year-old Tanveer.
Those are just the upper tier elite talents. There are others in the Canadian youth system with the possibility of breaking out and turning into stars.
With the youngsters’ talent and the guidance of a great leader like Nash, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Canada make a huge push forward in the world of international basketball.
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