Wiggins plays for Canada in Pan Am basketball

Andrew Wiggins of the NBA Timberwolves will play for Team Canada in the Pan Am Games.
Andrew Wiggins of the NBA Timberwolves will play for Team Canada in the Pan Am Games.

The Pan Am basketball schedule is now online, meaning Team Canada fans can buy tickets to see Canada’s basketball teams take on top competition such as Argentina and Venezuela in preliminary action.

The Canadian men’s basketball team will see a tough test in the first round of the tournament. They face Argentina, third-ranked team in the world, in their second game.

In another tough contest, the fast-rising Canadian women’s team, which finished fifth at the 2014 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Championship, will face 14th world-ranked Argentina.

“It’s exciting to have the Pan Am Games in my hometown of Toronto this summer,” said Andrew Wiggins, 2014 NBA 1st round draft pick. “Having the opportunity to play at home is very special for Team Canada and the country.”

The men’s basketball competitions are expected to be a highlight of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, with several NBA players expected to suit up.

“It’s always a privilege to play at home, we know we can compete with the best in the world and we plan to show that this summer in Toronto,” said Jay Triano, head coach of the men’s national team, an assistant coach for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. “This is an important competition for our young talented team.”

The Canadian women also see this as an important stop along the way for both teams who are trying to qualify this summer for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“2014 ended on a high note for us, finishing fifth at the FIBA World Championships,” said Lisa Thomaidis, head coach for the Canadian women’s team.

“This will be another special year for us as we will have the privilege of competing on home soil twice; at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and hosting the FIBA Americas Women’s Championship in Edmonton.”

The battle for medals has been hotly contested in recent years. Brazil’s men’s team won three consecutive Pan Am gold medals until the 2011 Guadalajara Games, when Puerto Rico took the title in the men’s and women’s competitions, with Mexico placing second. The U.S. won the men’s bronze while Brazil took bronze in the women’s.

Canadian basketball fans will see familiar faces in the tournament, including Toronto Raptors star Greivis Vasquez, who will compete with his native Venezuelan team. Vasquez helped his country qualify for the Games last summer.

“Growing up, I always wanted to play basketball for my national team and the Pan Am Games were always a great opportunity to compete against the most elite players in the world. It’s really special to be competing for the country I love, in the city that’s made me and my family feel at home and shown me so much love since I arrived,” said Vasquez.

“Everyone knows Canada’s national team is on the rise, and it’s going to be a really competitive tournament environment all around. It will be a great time for the fans in this city to see a different competitive side of basketball that is all about national pride.”

In the tournament, the Canadian women’s team will be part of Group B and will play Venezuela on July 16 (BK002); Argentina on July 17 (BK004) and Cuba on July 18 (BK006).

The semifinals will be July 19 and the gold-medal match will take place July 20 (BK010).

Of the eight teams in the men’s tournament, six are among the top-25 FIBA world-ranked teams. The Canadian men’s team will play Dominican Republic on July 21 (BK012); Argentina on July 22 (BK014) and Mexico on July 23 (BK016).

The semifinals take place July 24 and the gold-medal game on July 25 (BK020).

All basketball games will take place at Ryerson Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto. For the full basketball schedule, visit TORONTO2015.org/0/basketball-schedule.

Tickets are still available for men’s and women’s basketball but medal matches are close to selling out. To buy tickets online, visit TORONTO2015.org/tickets.

The Pan American Games take place July 10-26 and the Parapan American Games Aug. 7-15.