The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, featuring 32 teams worldwide, including the United States. However, don’t expect to see any Washington Wizards players on any team this year.
I have always liked watching the FIBA World Cup and Olympics every four years when many of the world’s best basketball players compete for their country. Unfortunately, the Wizards have never had many players who suited for their countries. In fact, Team USA has never had an active Wizards player since the 2006 World Championships when Antawn Jamison was on the team. And while Bradley Beal was selected for the 2020 Olympic team, he was a last minute scratch because he was under health and safety protocols right before the tournament.
This year’s Wizards team is rebuilding, so there won’t be any players on Team USA, even if it doesn’t have today’s A-listers. Still, basketball is the world’s second most popular sport in the western world, and the most popular sport in much of Asia. The Wizards have some international players, so are they going to be on teams?
In short: probably not.
The Wizards’ roster includes the following non-American players who could represent a World Cup team:
- Danilo Gallinari (Italy)
- Bilal Coulibaly (France)
- Xavier Cooks (Australia)
- Tristan Vukcevic (Italy/Spain/Sweden*/Greece/Serbia ... we’ll get to him in a bit)
Deni Avdija plays for Israel, but the Israelis did not make the World Cup.
So ... what are the chances of them playing in the World Cup?
In Gallinari’s case, he is past his prime and probably won’t be on the team. He hasn’t played for Italy since EuroBasket in 2015. Could he be on the World Cup team and use that to “warm up” before the NBA season? Nope. According to Juan Paolo David of Sportskeeda, the Italian basketball federation left him out of their preliminary roster and announced that he would not be on the final team.
Coulibaly is the 7th pick of the 2023 NBA Draft and showed promise during Summer League. But France is one of the world’s top teams in men’s basketball, and he has never played for the senior team. Coulibaly has played for their U18 team before, so he may be playing for Les Bleus in future tournaments. It just won’t be this year.
Cooks comes to the Wizards as last season’s MVP in Australia’s NBL. He has been in consideration for the Boomers’ squad in past years and could make it to the World Cup. But he hasn’t played for them at the senior level before.
Finally, let’s get to Vukcevic, who could play for FIVE different countries. Before diving into why, I’ll cut to the chase: He won’t be in the FIBA World Cup for any country.
So, why does Vukcevic have many options for his FIBA nationality? This is because Tristan’s former basketball player father is a dual Serbian-Greek citizen, while his mother is Swedish. Vukcevic himself was born in Italy and lived in Spain, so it’s possible he could play for either of these countries as well.
Though his father reportedly said that Tristan will play for Serbia if he makes a senior team (and Tristan was on a Serbian professional team last year), I haven’t seen anything claiming that Tristan chose his FIBA nationality yet, where he can only select one country. Vukcevic doesn’t appear to have played at any level for a national team, so we’ll see what he does when that time comes.
Either way, it doesn’t appear that the Wizards will be represented at the World Cup this year.
*Sweden is not the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but Vukcevic can claim Sweden as his FIBA nationality.