The Olympic flame has long been extinguished and so the dreams for the 2016 games in Rio have begun to stir.
This year, the Magic were just spectators at the Games. That may very well change in 2016. And I do not think I am talking about Orlando’s next big free agent acquisition or franchise centerpiece draft pick. The Magic may very well have a representative there too.
Orlando already has a pretty solid Olympic hopeful in rookie Andrew Nicholson.
Nicholson went to St. Bonaventure but was born in Toronto. He was part of a Canada national team trianing camp last week in Toronto. And the collection of talent Steve Nash has put together as the “general manager” of the Canada basketball team is looking pretty impressive. The preliminary roster includes Nicholson, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, San Antonio’s Cory Joseph. Coach Jay Triano called it the most basketball talent the Canadian national team has ever had under one roof.
And to be fair, Nash was pretty involved, getting to work on some drills with the younger players and giving general advice.
Judging by this video provided by Score (h/t Jeff Garcia of Project Spurs), Canada has its eyes squarely on making the 2016 Olympics with this young core of players joined by veteran stalwarts like Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire and, perhaps, Matt Bonner. The future of Canada basketball is very much on the younger players and Nicholson is definitely one of them.
Nicholson was Orlando’s first round draft pick last year and impressed everybody with his solid and consistent performance in the Orlando Summer League. He averaged a team-high 12.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game in the five-game Summer League schedule. Despite a glut of power forwards, Nicholson figures to be a big part of the Magic’s future.
“We have the older guys and the younger guys working together,” Nicholson told Score last week (pops up about 2:45 into the video). “We’re doing drills and just working on our individual skill set. We’re competing as if we have a game tomorrow. If we keep going like that we will be good.”
This experience with his national team will be good for him as there is now a sudden upswing of pride in Canadian basketball.
The camp last weekend was a big part of rebuilding the Canadian basketball program. If the young players get NBA experience and develop Rio, and the nation’s first Olympic berth since winning a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin games. Canada is currently ranked as the 26th team in the world according to FIBA, and sixth in the FIBA Americas zone. FIBA America usually gets three automatic bids and the chance to play for a fourth.
So Canada clearly has some work to do to crack the vice-like grip the U.S., Brazil and Argentina have over those Olympic spots.
As Canada prepares for the Tournament of the Americas in 2015, Nicholson is in line to be the team’s starting power forward. It will serve as a good boost of confidence for his development. By then, the Magic will know what kind of player they have.
The first time Nicholson will likely suit up for his home nation will be next summer in Venezuela during the FIBA Americas Championship where there are four spots in the 2014 FIBA World Cup available.