When the Canadian Senior Men's Olympic team steps out onto the court Tuesday night for its opening game against Greece it will represent the most talented group Canada Basketball has ever assembled. It's a team loaded with NBA talent including high-end difference-makers like Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett, and Luguentz Dort.
However, what it has in talent, it lacks in diversity.
Of the 12 players who made the final roster, only two were born outside of Ontario, Dort from Montreal and Trey Lyles from Saskatoon. This isn't by any means an indictment of Canada Basketball. The NBA has seen a rise in Canadian talent from coast to coast over the past few years with more Montrealers playing at the highest levels than ever before, but there is still more work to do.
That's why having the qualifiers on home soil is so important, Canada Basketball general manager Rowan Barrett said.
"When competitions of this magnitude are on home soil, it generally spurs on the growth and development," Barrett said. "If you listen to some of the NBA players that had competitions played in their neck of the woods growing up. They talked about being inspired by different players and a vision that that might one day be them."
At the lower levels, Canada Basketball has this diversity coming. The U19 team reportedly has four players from outside Ontario on its roster and it's developing a program that gets these talented players in early and keeps them.
Players like Joshua Primo, a Torontonian NBA 2021 Draft prospect, said one of his dreams is to play for the Senior Men's National team. He came up through the youth academy and said he'd like to continue representing his country at the highest levels.
That's what Canada Basketball is hoping to show not just at the Olympic qualifiers but ideally at the Olympics. Barrett and company want to inspire a generation from coast to coast to coast to not just start playing basketball but to continue to play, to join the Canadian pipeline and follow it all the way up through the junior teams to the senior levels. So that hopefully one day the Senior Men's team won't just be filled with NBA talent, it'll be filled with elite talent that spans the entire country and represents all of Canada.