Canada Basketball Senior Men’s National Team training camp recap. Up Next: 11-game European tour

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Canada Basketball Senior Men’s National Team training camp recap. Up Next: 11-game European tour

The Canadian Basketball Senior Men’s National team held training camp for their upcoming European tour at the Air Canada Centre this week. The team is a very young and internationally inexperienced one. Guard Carl English, at 33 years of age is by far the most experienced player and guard Jevohn Shepherd, 28, will also be counted on to provide leadership. Point guard Cory Joseph has the most NBA experience, with three years worth under his belt. Center Robert Sacre has and forward Andrew Nicholson have been in the league for 2 years and forward/center Kelly Olynyk just finished his rookie campaign. Guard Junior Cadougan is one year out of college and enjoyed a very sucessful rookie season for the club Batumi in Georgia. Forward Dwight Powell is the only player on the roster who got drafted by an NBA team this year (Charlotte Hornets then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers). The team does feature center Jordan Bachynski, swingman Melvin Ejim and guard Brady Heslip, players who are coming off terrific NCAA careers, but went undrafted. Forwards Jordan Baker, Owen Klassen and the brothers Scrubb, guards Philip and Thomas, are also huge CIS impact players. Baker and Klassen having had decorated CIS careers, round out the squad.

They may not be playing in the World Championships after failing to qualify last summer, but they will be going up against some very tough competition. After playing Slovenia, Ukraine and Georgia July 24th-26th, Team Canada will play Croatia (twice), Serbia, Italy and Spain from August 1st-6th. The tour wraps up with games versus Turkey and Angola. “Great competition. It’s not just some pushover teams. It’s top-level competition. The ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympics”, said English during a media scrum on Monday.

English has embraced his role as a leader on the young team, “I’m very vocal. I think a big part of being a leader is keeping everybody together, keeping everybody positive – every practice, not letting things get you down. You can be a leader on those things alone and having a positive attitude. And sometimes, it’s not always good to hear your coach speaking. If your peers hear it from you, and from each other, they tend to be more accountable

While Canada Basketball as a whole has to be disappointed not to be playing in the World Championships, nobody is looking back and the team realizes the opportunity that lies ahead. “You’re looking at the silver lining – everybody wants to play in the World Championships – we’re just trying to come together as a team, build chemistry, putting in a system where we’re not worried about wins and losses, as much as getting experience and trying to get better. I think we definitely have a better situation. It’s a win-win situation. [Playing in the World Championships] would have been great, but with the challenge ahead of us, we expect to tackle it.” said Olynyk.

Because the stakes aren’t as high, it allows Canada to field what some would consider to be a B team of players. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis and Tristan Thompson and Nik Stauskas are just a few of the players who won’t be suiting up for the tour. But playing in hostile environments overseas will provide valuable international experience for the younger players, especially the CIS ones, who view it as somewhat of a tryout for future competitions. “There’s certainly guys that are NBA-calibre guys that aren’t travelling with us but will certainly be a part of the program next year so a lot of us are trying to get in here and make an impression on the coaches and hopefully be a part of the team next year”, Baker said.

Looking over the roster it’s hard to find a player that will be depended on exclusively and consistently in order to ensure success. It appears to be a very well balanced team. Head Coach Jay Triano knows from experience that not relying on one player can be a good thing going forward for the future. “I’m hoping it’s not going to be just one name. In the 2000 Olympic, I know that Steve Nash was the guy. In ’99, before we qualified, the team was like us – very, very young. We ended up beating Argentina to qualify. Those Argentinian players who didn’t qualify took that loss and started forming. We need to be more like that and have a handful of players. The longer we play together, the more cohesive we will be”

As huge as the next three weeks will be for this team, everyone knows it’s about laying down the foundation for next summer when qualifying for the Olympics will be at stake.  Steve Nash is in the unique position of being the team’s General Manager while his playing career is still ongoing. He knows as well as anyone that this tour is vital to gain the experience necessary for future international prosperity. “Any little development is huge. It’s a chance for our core guys to get some invaluable experience. Next summer is going to be an incredibly tall task, we have a lot of talent but we have no international experience, no experience together nor experience playing for Jay. The chemistry, the culture, the experiences we gain this summer are going to be pivotal for next summer.”

Written by Graeme Wallace

Posted by Drew Ebanks