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Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket during a game on April 11, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Managing a fluid roster is one of the challenges Canada’s national men’s team faces as it prepares for the next year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

“This is something we are always going to face with our teams,” Rowan Barrett, assistant GM and executive vice-president of Canada Basketball’s senior men’s program, said Monday. “Different windows we are going to have different athletes.”

Barrett was in Vancouver to announce Canada will prepare for its next round of World Cup Americas qualifying with a pair of games against China in the Pacific Rim Basketball Classic. The teams will play June 22 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and June 24 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

Facing China will allow Canada to find its legs before World Cup qualifying resumes with games against the Dominican Republic June 29 at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum and the U.S. Virgin Islands July 2 at Ottawa’s TD Place.

Canada Basketball also announced the list of 18 players that will form the roster for the qualifying games. The list includes NBA players like Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat and Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, plus players from Europe and the NBA G League.

The most notable player not on the list is Andrew Wiggins, who was picked first overall in the 2014 NBA draft and went on to win rookie of the year with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Barrett didn’t give a specific reason for Wiggins not being part of the group.

“His initial desire was to play,” he said. “I do think he had some circumstances come up that are going to limit his ability to play for us in June.

“The door is open for September potentially as well.”

Head coach Jay Triano downplayed Wiggins’ absence.

“My goal is to focus on players that are here,” he said in a telephone conference call. “Guys are going to miss for different reasons.”

Barrett said the qualifying format being used for the World Cup affects the availability of players. He noted that Thompson, a six-foot-nine forward, is now involved in the NBA final while guard Kevin Pangos’s team in Lithuania is also playing.

“It can be challenging in terms of how you put your teams together,” he said. “It’s something all the countries are dealing with. We have to navigate that and compete to win.

“That continuity that you hope for, that you want, most countries just aren’t going to have that. I think we are managing it well so far.”

Triano said the pool of talented players available to him “is deeper than it’s ever has been.”

“We have more Canadians playing overseas and, in the NBA, than we’ve ever had before,” he said. “That’s a thank you to the grassroots and what Canada Basketball has done and what the grassroots programs in Canada has done. I don’t see this pool is getting smaller.”

The games against China will help the team mesh.

“After only having a couple days of practice I think it will be just having guys become familiar with each other, re-introducing some of the NBA players to the FIBA rules and the FIBA style of play,” said Triano. “The biggest thing for us is to get our guys to compete and play together and understand each other so when we go back to Toronto we are in great shape to play two games that are hugely important.”

Canada has a 3-1 record in Group D of the American qualifiers which also consists of the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each team faces the other three teams on a home and away basis with the top three teams from each group advancing to the second round.

Canada can secure first place in the group by beating the Dominican Republic by at least 12 points and scoring a win over the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The next round of qualifying continues with games in September, November and February 2019.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be played Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, 2019. It will be the largest edition of the tournament with a record 32 participating teams playing 92 games over 16 days.

The last time Canada qualified for the World Cup was 2010.


Guards — Aaron Best, Toronto, Raptors 905 (G-League); Olivier Hanlan, Aylmer, Que., Austin Spurs (G-League); Brady Heslip, Burlington, Ont., Trabzonspor (Turkey); Cory Joseph, Pickering, Ont., Indiana Pacers; Kaza Kajami-Keane, Ajax, Ont., Raptors 905; Jamal Murray, Kitchener, Ont., Denver Nuggets; Kevin Pangos, Holland Landing, Ont., BC Zalgiris (Lithuania); Phil Scrubb, Richmond, B.C., Fraport Skyliners (Germany).

Forwards — Anthony Bennett, Brampton, Ont., Maine Red Claws (G-League); Chris Boucher, Montreal, Golden State Warriors; Dillon Brooks, Mississauga, Ont., Memphis Grizzlies; Melvin Ejim, Toronto, BC UNICS (Russia); Andrew Nicholson, Mississauga, Guangdong Southern Tigers (China); Dwight Powell, Toronto, Dallas Mavericks; Tommy Scrubb, Richmond, S.S. Felice Scandone (Italy).

Centres — Khem Birch, Montreal, Orlando Magic, Kelly Olynyk, Kamloops, B.C., Miami Heat; Tristan Thompson, Toronto, Cleveland Cavaliers.

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