Canada at same level as USA, says Wigginton
TORONTO (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Basketball in Canada is gaining a higher and higher profile in producing top level talent. And that has the leaders of the next generation thinking big - such as being at the same level as the United States going into the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017.
That is what Lindell Wigginton believes heading to Cairo 2017, where the Canadian point guard hopes to lead his country to their first podium finish - preferably a spot on the top step.
"We just want to win," said Wigginton, who will be playing for Canada for a second time following their runners-up finish at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship last summer. "Coming into anything we want to stay confident and play your best and contribute how you can to your team. We just want to win, and whatever it takes to win that's what we will do."
"We feel we're right up there with the USA. We don’t just say: 'Oh we want to make it to the Quarter-Finals or Semi-Finals.' We want to go to the championship and even win it. And we feel we're on the same level as the United States."Lindell Wigginton
Canada will start their tournament in Group C with Japan, Mali and Spain. With all four teams advancing to the Round of 16, it is the next two games that Canada will absolutely want to win - especially Quarter-Finals.
Canada have never been able to get past the Quarter-Finals and into the Semi-Finals at the U19 spectacle - with fifth, sixth and seventh placed showings in 2015, 2013 and 2009, respectively.
"We feel we're right up there with the USA. We don’t just say: 'Oh we want to make it to the Quarter-Finals or Semi-Finals.' We want to go to the championship and even win it. And we feel we're on the same level as the United States," the 6ft 2in (1.87m) guard said.
When asked what Canada must do to win the title, Wigginton added: "Just stay aggressive and compete and attack at all times. We need to play defense and have good transition defense. USA are great in transition."
Wigginton represents the next group of Canada players who enter tournaments with higher expectations rather than just hopes of reaching the podium. That confidence comes especially from playing with and against the best USA players on a daily basis since he and many other Canadians are playing high school basketball south of the border in the United States.
Wigginton, who played high school basketball at Oak Hill in Virginia, is also part of another shift in Canadian basketball - namely that other regions are starting to produce more high level talent. Wigginton hails from Nova Scotia - a long way from the brimming hotbed of basketball in the country, Toronto.
"You don't really hear much about people from Montreal or Nova Scotia," said the Halifax native, who was the first Canadian to play for the famed Oak Hill school. "It's just great knowing that the country and the provinces are getting more players involved in basketball. More players are getting better and better."
And that makes the collective confidence increase and allows for Wigginton and the Canadians to believe they can challenge the best in the world and finally step onto the U19 podium.