With Summer League over, we are officially beginning the run up to the FIBA World Cup taking place August 30 through September 14 in Spain. That is the next big basketball event on the calendar.
The Magic will have two players participating as Maurice Harkless is schedule to dress for Puerto Rico and Evan Fournier is scheduled to play for France. Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo were also added to the U.S. Select Team to train with the United States national team in Las Vegas beginning July 27 in Las Vegas.
Like the FIFA World Cup, though, the run-up to the major tournament is a time for the teams that did not qualify to get some extra time together through exhibitions and friendlies.
That will include Andrew Nicholson and Team Canada.
The budding young team is preparing to take off for an 11-game schedule in Europe today. The team has been practicing and will have their final session before the trip overseas. Nicholson is joined on the roster by Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre. No Andrew Wiggins quite yet for Team Canada and Tristan Thompson is sitting out this exhibition run, likely giving Nicholson more opportunity to play at power forward next to Sacre or Olynyk.
This is obviously a very young roster as stalwarts like Joel Anthony were not included. It should be another opportunity for this team to gel.
It should be remembered just how good Nicholson was last year at the FIBA Americas Tournament in Venezuela, where Canada got off to a great start but struggled in the second round of group play and failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
Canada though is a team to watch in upcoming national competitions. Nicholson will be a part of that.
“I know last year we were a little bit disappointed that we didn’t qualify for the (World Cup in Spain), but at the same time we knew we had 22- and 23-year-old players as our best players on the floor and we needed to get them international experience,” Canada coach Jay Triano told Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
“We need to go over to Europe and we need to see what the international game is, get them experience with playing for me. Get them experience playing the international game and then return to their NBA teams or their club teams and continue to improve. We’re still very, very infant in who we are as a basketball nation, but that’s going to change over the next two, four, six, eight years.”
Nicholson averaged 15.0 points per game at the tournament last summer. He looked really aggressive and showed a variety of offensive moves along with that developing 3-point shot. It obviously did not translate to the regular season as much. The FIBA game just seemed to suit him.
On Canada’s schedule for this European tour are games against World Cup qualifiers Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia and Angola. The trip also includes a date with World Cup host Spain on August 6.
It will be a tough trip, but hopefully a good one for the team and for Nicholson specifically.
As for the other Magic players getting set for basketball’s big international event, Harkless has actually not yet agreed to play for Puerto Rico at the World Cup, according to ole.com. Harkless had reportedly agreed to play for Puerto Rico, where his mother was born, after meeting with coach Paco Olmos in New York City. Apparently some i’s needed dotting and some t’s still needed to be crossed.
Puerto Rico is always one of those dark horse teams with lots of great guards like former Magic guard Carlos Arroyo, Jose Barea and David Huertas. Former Florida guard Michael Rosario is also listed on the roster with FIBA’s Web site. Harkless, decidedly, is not.
Puerto Rico will play the U.S. at Madison Square Garden on August 22.
Fournier is expected to suit up for France this summer too. Fournier last played for the French national team in 2011 at the U20 European Championship. He averaged 16.9 points per game in that tournament. France won Eurobasket last year and is ranked eighth in the world.