Everything that Andrew Wiggins does in the next 12 months is geared to be the No. 1 choice in the NBA draft, so it's hardly surprising that Maple Jordan has passed on wearing the Maple Leaf later this month.
The FIBA U19 championship for men, which begins in Prague on June 27, does not have the same cachet in basketball as hockey's world junior championship. The latter is big business and a showcase for professional prospects. Junior hockey has tweaked its season to accommodate international play since, hey, there's profit to be had for the Canadian Hockey League by forming a partnership with Hockey Canada and the IIHF. The lack of a similar symbiosis in basketball trickles down to the players, which is why playing internationally in the summers isn't always an automatic. So the 18-year-old Wiggins' opting to get acclimatized with the Kansas Jayhawks instead of joining the Canada junior men's national team hardly comes as a shock.
Still, public perception in Canada is that no matter what, you play. It seems worth, in light of that, pointing out Wiggins is hardly alone in passing on the U19s.
As Rookiewire pointed out, the members of the Kentucky Wildcats' heralded freshman class passed en masse on playing for the U.S. under-19 team. Whoever is helping Andrew Wiggins call the shots, that's the world they are in.
I feel like these kids are passing up an incredible opportunity to travel, bond with other players and basically participate in something they may never get to again. Not to mention passing up on a chance to represent your country to the world. However, on the flip side, they are 18 years old and likely don’t quite grasp the opportunity. They’re likely consumed with the NBA, getting their first crack at college girls and getting a head start on their freshman year in college basketball (hopefully not in that order). After all, in the public eye, the attention is just not there for playing on a National Team and may not match the effort. It's incomparable to the scrutiny they will receive during their first year in college, so its hard to blame them for wanting to get focused on their new role with their new team. In the end, if they are good enough, they will have more opportunities to represent their country in the future.
Point being, it's better to take a few minutes to put this decision into context than make assumptions about why Wiggins isn't playing, especially since the door is open to him playing for the senior men's team this summer. Other players in his shoes aren't playing. Expecting it to be different because he's Canadian is a double standard.
Canada Basketball's spin focused on "Andrew's long-term development and our organizational goals for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games." In other words, he's saving himself for a bigger deal, while this tournament is more for the group's development. Plus, let's face it, Canadians are more likely to watch him lead the Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament than play for Canada in an under-19 tournament. Which is more accessible?
Who knows, his absence might create opportunity for another youngster who could become an asset to the senior team someday. It's spin-doctoring, obviously, but it's a refreshing change from the usual rhetorical device in Canadian sport of piling up all the medals from various minor events and being stunned when that doesn't yield success on the biggest stage.
Team Canada, coached by Roy Rana, begins the U19s with games against Spain, Croatia and South Korea on June 27-29.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.