NEW YORK - The 2014 NBA Draft could set off a Canadian celebration with three prospects from the country expected to go in the first round of the annual selection process to be held on Thursday at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
The Canadian crew are led by ultra-athletic Andrew Wiggins, the University of Kansas freshman projected as a possible number one overall pick along with Duke University's offensively-minded forward Jabari Parker of Chicago.
Guards Nik Stauskas of the University of Michigan and Syracuse University's Tyler Ennis are the other Canadians expected to go early in the draft, which is the pipeline for talent flowing into the world's top pro basketball league.
"It's huge, especially having three people that high in the draft," Wiggins told reporters on Wednesday about the impact back home. "I think it's big for Canada."
Stauskas, who grew up playing with and against Wiggins and Ennis, agreed.
"I've watched these guys grow up for the last 10 years and they've watched me grow up," he said. "To see all of us come together now and have all this success ... it's crazy to see.
"I really hope that the 8-, 9-, 10-year-old kids starting to play basketball in Canada look up to us and we inspire someone. I was that kid growing up. I'm really proud and being from Canada, I love it. I love being Canadian."
Last year compatriot Anthony Bennett was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, although he struggled last season in averaging 4.2 points and three rebounds in 12.8 minutes played per game.
The Cavs again hold the top pick, but plotting the path of the draft is difficult as talents are weighed against needs and draft picks are often used as vital trading pieces by teams restructuring their rosters.
Seven teams go in with multiple first-round picks, including Philadelphia (third and 10th choices), Orlando (four and 12), Boston (six, 17), Chicago (16, 19), Charlotte (nine, 24), Phoenix (18, 27) and Oklahoma City (21, 29).
Teams without first-round picks heading in were the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Charlotte Hornets.
A long shot possibility to go number one is 7-foot (2.1 m)center and defensive force Joel Embiid, a Kansas teammate of Wiggins. The Cameroon native was considered a favorite to go first overall until he fractured a bone in his right foot last week.
Another international player drawing attention is Australian guard Dante Exum, projected to go high but considered something of a mystery man since he did not play U.S. college hoops after finishing the Australian Institute of Sport.
"I see everybody back in Australia getting excited about the draft," said Exum, 18. "I just can't wait to finally get drafted by a team and hopefully see some people wearing my jersey."
The two top figures had different attitudes about the outcome of the draft, in which the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers follow Cleveland in the draft order.
Parker, 19, said he was not fussed about which team picks him.
"I won't be disappointed at all. All of the top three teams are a good fit," he said. "They're great opportunities, great chances."
Wiggins, 19, said going number one mattered to him.
"I think that's more on the competitive side," said the lean, 6-foot-8 small forward with such dazzling jumping skills he earned the nickname "Maple Jordan."
"It's just wanting to be above everyone else. I still want to go 'one.'"
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)