WINNIPEG — Andrew Wiggins doesn't mind being the role model for the next wave of aspiring Canadian pro basketball players.
The Vaughan, Ont., native and reigning NBA rookie of the year was back on home soil for his Minnesota Timberwolves' pre-season game Saturday night in Winnipeg against the Chicago Bulls.
"I'm fine with that. I feel that I carry myself pretty well," Wiggins said after his team's Saturday morning shootaround.
"I do things off the court, on the court, to help the people around me. I like to give hope, create opportunity for others."
The No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft and his teammates have crossed the border as part of this year's Canada Series. Five NBA squads are playing four exhibition games in cities that don't have teams: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal.
Wiggins had never to been to Winnipeg and said he hoped the teams put on a great show for fans.
"Basketball is growing," the 20-year-old forward said. "A lot of people are starting to like it more, they're starting to see it more. Having the NBA come down here, it gives them a good view of basketball and the NBA."
The pre-season has been extra special for Wiggins as he's been playing with his older brother, Nick, who signed with Minnesota last month.
Nick, 24, said he hopes to stick with the Timberwolves, but in the meantime he's enjoying suiting up with his little brother and is proud of his impact on the game.
"The growth of Canadian basketball in the past couple of years has been huge," said Nick, a guard who's played in Germany and also with NBA teams in development and summer leagues.
"With Andrew being the No. 1 pick and the year before (Canadian) Anthony Bennett being the No. 1 pick, you can see a lot of uprising.
"Kids are just starting to believe in themselves, that they can compete with kids across the border."
The Canada Series can help that growth, both brothers said.
The Toronto Raptors began the fourth year of the series with a 93-73 win in Vancouver against the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 4.
Wiggins and his Timberwolves play the Raptors in Ottawa on Wednesday. The series wraps up Oct. 23 in Montreal with a match between the Raptors and Washington Wizards.
After the game in Winnipeg, the Timberwolves head to Toronto for a regular pre-season game Monday against the Raptors.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press