The 2019 FIBA World Cup was notoriously missing some popular basketball names from various rosters. Not only did the United States fall victim to superstar players favoring offseason rest in lieu of a lengthy trip to China, but a few other countries also met the same fate.
Big names such as LeBron James, James Harden, and Anthony Davis were notably missing and would have been much-needed additions to the U.S. team that finished in seventh. Similar to what happened in the states, our neighbors to the north experienced the same type of talent exodus.
Up-and-coming stars such as former Kentucky products Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander decided to not represent their home country of Canada for the 2019 World Cup and both players caught some criticism for their decision. Team Canada ended up finishing 21st in the tournament as they were also missing the likes of Tristan Thompson, RJ Barrett, and Andrew Wiggins.
With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo set for next summer, the vibes are changing. Both Murray and SGA have already committed to playing for Canada as the team looks to qualify for the Olympics.
Playing for my country is always an honour and I want to take the step and leadership role to commit to @canadabasketball this summer. I want to play my part to help push our team into the Olympics and compete at the highest world stage. Let’s go Canada????
— Jamal Murray (@BeMore27) November 26, 2019
I've known and made a promise to myself that representing my country is something I will continue to do and as my bro @BeMore27 publicly announced his commitment, I too will be there to do my best to help @CanBball get to Tokyo!
— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (@shaiglalex) November 27, 2019
For the international game, this is huge news. Murray and SGA are two of the most promising young guards in the entire world. Murray is averaging 18.5 points 4.5 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in his fourth year with the Denver Nuggets while SGA is posting 18.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder in his second NBA season.
“I wanted to get the word out early because I feel like I have a leadership role and want to let the other guys know I’m all in, I’m ready to play,” said Murray via his agent Mike George, according to a press release by the Denver Nuggets. “I feel healthy and I’m ready to go ahead and try to help us qualify for the Olympics.”
A fully loaded Canadian team is arguably one of the top-5 most talented in the world. Reminder: former ‘Cat Kyle Wiltjer was an important piece for the 2019 roster and his impressive shooting stroke should slot him back on the squad for 2020.
SGA’s cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a rookie guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, also pledged to play for Canada next summer.
The Olympics are expected to draw a higher level of talent than the World Cup and the United State will surely trot out several All-Stars instead of the Donovan Mitchell/Kemba Walker-led team that stumbled to two bad losses. Canada is taking an early step into asserting themselves as a real threat if they can make it through the qualifiers.