Canada

Tristan Thompson thinks Melvin Ejim should 'definitely' be on the Team Canada roster at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019

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With Canada officially qualifying for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China on Monday, naturally, the conversation now shifts to who will be on the 12-man roster.

MORE: Heat Check: Who should start for Team Canada at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China?

Canada used 35 different players during the qualification process, and with two games remaining to be played in February in St John's Newfoundland, there's a potential for more to don the red and white at the senior level.

The level of commitment for the program is something that shouldn't be taken for granted with many of Team Canada's players having to fly hours from all over the world to play for their county without the promise of being picked at the World Cup itself. It's the selflessness that is needed in the new FIBA qualification process - a trait that likely team captain Tristan Thompson is well aware is needed.

"I think it's important at the end of the day you know obviously playing in the NBA is a great thing, but representing your country at the highest level is something totally different," Thompson told NBA.com.

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"It's not just about myself and my family it's more about the guys that came before us the guys that paved the way - the guys that couldn't play on the national team that got alienated because of Canada Basketball or whoever was making those calls back in the day.

"It's bigger than just myself, Cory (Joseph) and the guys right now it's about the guys before us the pioneers and for the future to help grow this game in our country.

"I think it's our responsibility to keep pushing that forward and playing with the national team is a great way to do that."

Thompson spoke about the potential of having 12 NBA players when Canada takes the floor in August at the World Cup. The only other country capable of doing that is the United States.

The reality is all the NBA players might not be available, and even if they are, team fit should have some consideration when putting together a team in such a short window. Despite having so much talent from the world's best league, Thompson doesn't think the team should just be a formality.

If Thompson had it his way he'd look to add players who can be versatile in multiple roles. Luckily for Canada, there's a ton of players who fit that mould both in and out of the NBA, but Thompson went out of his way to praise one of his fellow national team members and a guy he thinks flies under the radar - Melvin Ejim.

Ejim was one of the 35 to help qualify for the World Cup. He was one of those playing in Europe that had to endure nightmare travel just to help the cause on his off week. Sources told NBA.com that Ejim took at least 5 flights to play ahead of the September window. It's that type of dedication and along with his talent and toughness that Thompson sees as an asset to the program.

"Even though we have 12 (NBA) guys that could play for the national team at the end of the day it's about the right fit," Thompson continued. "I'll definitely be the first one to lobby that Melvin Ejim has probably been Mister Canada in terms of his dedication.

"Coming where he's come from St. Augusta to go to Brewster and than going to Iowa State and kind of being self made - you know being the Big12 Player of the Year then doing training camp with Orlando, and then sticking around there doing the G-League for a little bit and still whenever his number was called he was ready to go whether he was in Italy or right now in Russia he's always been dedicated to the program.

"He's definitely a guy who will for sure be on the roster for the FIBA World Cup if we do well and make the Olympics he'll definitely be a guy on that team.

"At the end of the day if you ask me I think even though Mel is not an NBA player he has a lot of assets that would help him in the game. I think what people might not understand he didn't go to the biggest school he didn't have a set position but at the end of the day, the kid can play the game.

"He's the type of guy that's part of a puzzle piece that could help you medal in a World Championship."

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