By Jose Colorado for On Point Basketball
Anthony Bennett once symbolized the progression of Canadian basketball.
It wasn’t too long ago that the versatile six-foot-eight forward terrorized college opponents with his lengthy wing span, mobile footwork and feathery touch around the rim and in the process became the first Canadian ever selected with top pick in the NBA Draft – it hasn’t exactly panned out since then.
Canada Basketball recently announced via press release the 16 athletes that will participate in a brief six-day try-out at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) from July 12 – 17 as the team determines its 12-man roster in anticipation of its July 21opener against the Dominican Republic at the Pan American (Pan Am) Games in Toronto.
Jay Triano, the Head Coach of the men’s national team, is confident the often-criticized 22-year-old will be able to lead his squad.
“I’m excited about him being a part of this,” said Triano, when reached for a conference call. “He’s on the verge of breaking through and at the same time I know how hard he has worked in the past year to get his body in shape. “We want to keep developing players in this country and he’s one of the best.”
The Brampton native, who holds career averages of 4.7 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game, is joined alongside fellow NBA players, Sim Bhullar (Sacramento Kings) and Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic), in the 16 player pool.
Triano expressed excitement about a potential Nicholson – Bennett pairing as both carry a game that travels internationally according to the coach.
“Both players obviously bring NBA experience and both are suited for the international game – they both step out and shoot the three.”
Much of the Canadian talent that has invaded the NBA in recent years however was noticeably absent from the roster, including NBA rookie of the year, Andrew Wiggins, 2013/14 NBA champion Cory Joseph, and one of last season’s key NBA playoff performers, Tristan Thompson.
Triano said the lack of NBA talent on the Pan Am roster was because of the upcoming FIBA America Championships in August – the official qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“That roster will be different,” said Triano, who also mentioned the NBA Las Vegas Summer League as another factor for the absence of other NBA players.
“(The Pan Aa games) will allow some of the players on this roster to showcase what they can do and vie for a spot on that roster…participating in both events was not a good idea for them.”
Although that is not to say the Pan Am roster is without its intrigue as the young Jamal Murray – heralded by many basketball experts as the next big thing in Canadian basketball – will compete for a roster spot.
The 18-year-old, who recently sported a Canadian flag as he announced his commitment to the University of Kentucky in a nationally televised broadcast, is the only member in the roster pool to have yet to compete at the collegiate level.
“I think it’s huge. We’ve had a history of young players representing Canada at an early age like Leo Rautins and Steve Nash,” said Triano. “It helps with their development but it also helps with their passion for competing for the country.”
Triano however was also adamant in his view that the games did not simply serve as a tune-up for the FIBA Americas.
“The Olympic qualifier is a huge event for us but at the same time we are going to do our best to win a medal.”
PAN AM 16-PLAYER TRYOUT ROSTER
Written by Jose Colorado
Anthony Bennett Photo Courtesy Canada Basketball
Other Photos courtesy Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks