The NBA’s newest Canadian players aren’t just looking forward to joining their pro teams.
Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis are envisioning the day when they all get together wearing Canada’s national team jersey.
“I think, once we get in the gym together, getting chemistry and just get all the talent in one gym for the first time, I think that will be a big moment for Canada,” Ennis said Thursday night at the NBA draft. “I think not only 2016, but the following Olympics I think we’ll be able to make a run at it.”
Stauskas, a long-range shooter from Mississauga, Ont., went eighth overall to the Sacramento Kings in Thursday night’s draft at Barclays Center. Ennis, a point guard from Brampton, Ont., went 18th to the Phoenix Suns.
Andrew Wiggins, a 19-year-old sensation from Vaughan, Ont., was taken No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Canadians were asked in their post-draft interviews if they think Canada can give perennial powerhouse United States a run for their money at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I talked with Andrew (Wiggins) the last couple of days, just being here in New York at the same time. We’re very excited for the future of Canada basketball,” Stauskas said. “I feel like, if we really all commit to coming in and working hard and coming together, I think we could have a really good team.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win a gold medal right now, but I’m saying that we could have a chance to compete at that level if we really — if we all commit to it.
Dwight Powell of Toronto was the fourth Canadian drafted Thursday, going 45th overall to the Charlotte Hornets.
The first-round picks confirm Canada will have at least 12 players on NBA rosters next season — second most in the league behind the United States. Canada passed France, which previously held that honour with nine players on NBA rosters.
“It’s such a tremendous night for Canadian Basketball. For Andrew, Nik and Tyler to go in the top 18 in such an incredibly deep draft makes such a compelling case for the development of the Canadian game,” said Wayne Parrish, Canada Basketball’s president and CEO.
Canada’s men’s basketball team hasn’t played in the Olympics since Steve Nash led the squad to a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Olympics.
The Canadians missed qualifying for the upcoming basketball World Cup in Spain, but head coach Jay Triano has set a busy summer schedule including an 11-game European tour.
It’s unclear which players will be available this summer — the NBA rookies will be focused on their pro team duties. Next summer, however, should see Canada assemble arguably one of its strongest rosters in recent memory for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament.
Wiggins will already have chemistry playing with Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson — the trio will have spent a season together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And Stauskas and Ennis are keen to represent the national team.
“I think we could put together a really good team,” said Ennis.
The 25th-ranked Canadian team will face five of the world’s top-15 ranked teams during their tour July 24-Aug. 12 — No. 2 Spain, seventh-ranked Turkey, Serbia (11), Slovenia (13) and Angola (15).
Triano and Nash, the Canadian team’s general manager, will gather their players in Toronto for a three-day camp, July 20-22 at the Air Canada Centre.
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