2021 has the potential to be a big year for Canada Basketball.
Ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Canada will host a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament from June 29 to July 4, 2021, in Victoria, BC. With over 20 Canadians seeing action in the NBA this season, there's a very talented pool of players that could represent the nation in hopes of securing the first Olympic berth since the 2000 games.
Among this talent pool is New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (Mississauga, ON), who is one of five Canadians in the league that is averaging over 16.0 points per game in the 2020-21 season. Barrett, 20, has already represented his country in numerous international competitions, famously leading Canada's under-19 team to gold at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup and making his debut with the senior men's national team in the summer of 2018 at just 18 years old.
MORE: Barrett's coming into his star potential
Following a win over the Toronto Raptors in which he scored 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, Barrett spoke to reporters about his intentions to compete for Canada this upcoming summer, saying "if I'm available, I'm gonna play," per Sportsnet's Steven Loung.
"I want to play for Canada each summer," he added.
🇨🇦 Canadian meet up last night in NYC!@RjBarrett6@dillonbrooks24@brandonclarke23 pic.twitter.com/9kctNnnlQe- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) April 10, 2021
With a truncated season that runs later than normal years, availability could be an issue for some of the NBA players hoping to compete internationally this summer as tournaments such as the above FIBA qualifier will coincide with the NBA Playoffs, as the Finals aren't scheduled to begin until July 8, 2021.
As for the Olympics, the NBA Finals' latest possible end date of July 22 falls just one day before the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games.
RJ Barrett's father, Rowan, was a member of Canada's last Olympic qualifying team in 2000 and now serves as the general manager for Canada Basketball. The elder Barrett spoke with Sportsnet's Danielle Michaud about the obstacles facing Team Canada, with respect to availability and the prospect of the team putting forth the best roster possible.
"I think, with us - just like every other country now - I think our biggest opponent right now is the pandemic," Barrett told Michaud. "We've always kinda wanted to build a large enough player pool that can sustain whatever gets thrown at us, so this will be the great test of that this year with the pandemic and the NBA schedule as well as the guys overseas, some of their seasons have been pushed back.
"Overall, if there's any indication based on the player calls that we've been having over Zoom, our guys are enthusiastic - as much as they can be - you would expect them to be suiting up."
Stick with NBA.com for more updates surrounding the availability and commitments of Canada's stars as the national team prepares for a big summer.
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