Nash, Team Canada have talent to work with

Steve Nash, the former sun, moon and stars of the NBA franchise in Phoenix, has landed two new jobs this year.

Before he was anointed the point-guard upgrade in Los Angeles, the two-time league MVP was appointed general manager of the Canadian national team. He’s hoping to become Canada’s version of what Jerry Colangelo is to USA Basketball.

At least, that’s the hope of basketball fans up north.

Colangelo, whose salesmanship inspired a buy-in from many NBA superstars, helped resurrect the Americans’ moribund international-competition model. And while the overall model of player development in the US still seems to require an overhaul, Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have delivered two gold-medal runs and a world championship back home.

Expecting anything close to that from Nash might be considered far-fetched, but the Canadians are closer to becoming an international threat than you probably think.
Thanks to an extended run of youth development in Canada, Nash presides over a rising talent base that likely will yield great dividends.

For the record, the prospect list goes well beyond Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson and his former University of Texas teammate, Cory Joseph, now of the San Antonio Spurs.

According to several NBA talent evaluators I’ve spoken with this summer, the top amateur prospect in the world is Canadian Andre Wiggins. Now starting his junior year at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Wiggins is the son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and Canadian Olympic silver-medal-winning track athlete Marita Payne-Wiggins.

Andrew goes about 6-foot-7, has eye-popping explosiveness and competes at a high level. His evolving skill set has provoked several hoop sharpies to list him as an even better prospect than Chicago’s Jabari Parker, who’s ranked as the top high school senior in America. It should be noted that Wiggins is older than Parker and — according to rumors — has considered reclassifying to the graduating class of 2013 in order to accelerate the pace of his pre-NBA draft clock.

Whenever he’s draft eligible, Wiggins will be a strong candidate to be the NBA’s first overall pick.

But Canada has many more rising through its youth programs. UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett left Canada for Findlay Prep in Las Vegas a few years ago and became a five-star power forward, according to Scout.com. And Scout ranks 2013 point guard Tyler Ennis — a Canadian who attends St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey — as a five-star prospect. Ennis has committed to Syracuse.

Canada also has another five-star prospect in Scout’s class of 2014: Trey Lyles is a 6-8 forward who attends Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis and has committed to Indiana. And point guard Myck Kabongo played with Thompson and Joseph on the Grassroots Canada AAU program, then followed them to Findlay Prep and Texas. NBADraft.net lists Kabongo as a first-round prospect for the 2013 draft.

With Nash as the salesman for the national team, expect most — if not all — of these hotshots to lead Canada in its international future.

It also should be noted that Canada’s young guns certainly benefit — from a development standpoint — through year-round competition against American talent.

TEAM USA IN AZ?

Back when the men’s national team was starting to restore its golden glow, USA Basketball was hoping the city of Glendale, Ariz., would build a training facility on its behalf.

Although that effort has fallen through, the Phoenix area might not be eliminated from the quest to accommodate the American national teams. According to multiple sources tied to local basketball concerns, the project could be resurrected in Tempe.

The Glendale model for this project included a multi-court practice facility, executive offices for USA Basketball, a 150-room hotel, a state-of-the-art sports medicine clinic and plans to allow for training and competition opportunities for area youth.

Without going into specifics, the Tempe model would have some key adjustments.

CLOUDS IN SUNS FUTURE

Although their busy summer of acquisition has been hailed as relatively successful, the Suns failed to inspire confidence in at least two ESPN basketball sharpies. Based on their projections for NBA teams, the Suns’ future ranks a dismal 29th in terms of on-court success over the next four seasons. Only the Charlotte Bobcats are ranked lower.

Going into the offseason, the Suns certainly looked like a team with (perhaps) less appreciable young talent than any team in the league. But they did bring back Goran Dragic, signed the talented but enigmatic Michael Beasley and drafted passing hotshot Kendall Marshall.

The ESPN analysts did suggest a silver lining: The 2012-13 Suns might be bad enough to land a really high pick in next June’s draft.

What wasn’t mentioned was the widely held belief that the potential 2013 draft class could be one of the weakest in years.

In my opinion, the additions of Dragic, Beasley and Luis Scola could — despite the loss of Nash — keep the Suns in the hunt for a playoff ticket . . . and a pick at the end of the lottery.