Canada’s SMNT’s European Tour about to get a whole lot tougher

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On Point Exclusive: Written By Graeme Wallace

The Canadian Basketball Senior Men’s National Team got started on its 11 game European tour last week and got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. In its first game against Slovenia Canada lost 92-80. On the surface this may have seemed like a disappointing result. After all, Slovenia is a small nation of just over two million people.  However, they are 13th in the FIBA Rankings and feature one of the best point guards on the planet in Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns. In case you’re wondering Canada is currently ranked 26th in the world, so technically it would have been an upset if they had won.

Next, Canada took on Ukraine and came away with an 80-75 victory. They followed that up with a wire-to-wire 83-66 win over The Republic of Georgia. Those two nations are both below Canada in the F.I.B.A. Rankings, at 45th and 53rd respectively. So basically, the team has beaten both teams they were expected to and lost to the one it wasn’t expected to beat.

It’s a good thing Canada will enjoy five days without a game because the schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher. A double dip with Croatia (ranked 16th) kicks off six games in six days. They will then face Serbia (11th), Italy (21st) Bosnia-Herzegovina (T-57th) and Spain (2nd). All of those teams have plenty of international experience, not to mention NBA calibre talent on their rosters.

Croatia isn’t considered to be as strong a team as they were in the early to mid-nineties but they are certainly no pushover. They also have two NBA players, swingman Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets and forward Damjan Rudez, who just signed a three year contract to play for the Indiana Pacers. A split of the two games against this hard nosed squad would have to be considered a great result for Canada.

Serbia has two players currently employed by NBA teams, forward Miroslav Raduljica (Milwaukee Bucks) and guard Nemanja Nedovic (Golden State Warriors) and another, Nenad Krstic who played seven seasons in the League. Guard/Forward Bogdan Bogdanovic (not to be confused with Bojan Bogdanovic) is a very exciting player who was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the first round and will likely play in the NBA someday.

Italy is not ranked as high as they have been is previous years but their roster is brimming with talent. Marco Bellinelli, Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari are the most prominent names on the team. Forward Luigi Datome has been a standout in the Italian League and signed a deal with the Detroit Pistons. The game with Italy is one of the most interesting because of the amount of NBA players and the relative equality of the teams. A win against the Italians is a definite possibility, but it will not come easily.

Bosnia-Herzegovina figures to be the weakest opponent on the tour, but Canada must be careful in how it approaches this game. Center Jusuf Nurkic is a load of a young man (6’11”, 280lbs) who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls (then traded to the Denver Nuggets) with the 16th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. The team also includes Mirza Teletovic, who was, at times, the Brooklyn Nets best player last season.

Spain has developed into a real hoops powerhouse and it is against “La Roja” where Team Canada will truly see how far they may have come or how far they have to go. In addition to an excellent point guard duo of Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio, Spain has All-Star calibre frontcourt players in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Forward Victor Claver plays for the Portland Trail Blazers and guard Sergio Rodrguez and swingman Rudy Fernandez both ample have NBA experience. Making the test even more difficult will be the challenge of playing the game in the Spanish city of Coruna.

The team gets three well-deserved days off before finishing with games against always tough Turkey (August 10th) and African power Angola (August 12th).

There is no question that this tour is a building opportunity for Canada. It also should be noted that they are not necessarily sending out their best team. It is a great chance for the players who are representing the maple leaf to show that we are a basketball nation on the rise.

Written by Graeme Wallace

Posted by Drew Ebanks