Phil Scrubb chased by Cory Joseph
Written by Charles Vanegas for On Point Basketball
After a dominant stint at the Pan American Games, forward Anthony Bennett (Minnesota Timberwolves) has been going full-speed heading into the FIBA Americas Championship. Canada is seen to have much depth up front with Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic) and Robert Sacre (Los Angeles Lakers) in the mix, so Bennett will have the chance to provide a spark from a multitude of positions.
“I don’t really try to classify who’s a four or who’s a five, who’s a centre, who’s a power forward. We ask our first big down the floor to be a guy who occupies space and looks for something in transition. With his speed and the way that he runs, [Anthony is] usually the first one down the court,” said head coach Jay Triano, who described Bennett as arguably the team’s highest energy guy in practice. “I told him not to worry about numbers, be the first guy down, rebound the crap out of the ball – go get it every time it’s available. That’s what will identify him as a player.”
Triano opted to keep Monday’s practice in the half-court, citing overall fatigue, but likes where the team is at.
“It’s a bit of a grind right now. This is our fifth day of practices. They’re starting to feel it – the bumps and the bruises… but you’ve gotta be able to fight through this type of thing,” said Triano. “I think they’ve picked up offensively and defensively what we’re trying to do. It’s always hard to judge where your stand, when we’re practicing against ourselves. We`re going to need games, and those are coming up next week [at the Tuto Marchand Cup in Puerto Rico.]”
Robert Sacre battles inside
While the coaching staff has four cuts to make, it knows its primary ball-handlers will be NBA Rookie-of-the-Year Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves) and new Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph. While Wiggins said he still wasn’t fully sure what to expect from the international game at this level, Joseph is in his third summer in a row playing for the senior national team, and has a strong understanding of what Canada wants to do on both sides of the ball.
“Cory keeps getting better. I don’t think a lot of people thought he was an NBA player after his first year with the Spurs, and he’s gotten better and better, and look where he is now. Cory’s a tough kid,” said Team Canada GM Steve Nash. “He’s a key part of our team, his leadership and playmaking ability is going to be very big for us.”
Andrew Wiggins in the media scrum
Beyond Joseph, Triano singled out former Carleton Raven (and newest member of AEK Athens in Greece) Philip Scrubb and Olivier Hanlan (BC Zalgiris, Lithuania) as playmakers at the point guard position, notably omitting Jamal Murray, who is practicing but whose status is still uncertain, as FIBA Americas overlap with his first weeks of classes at Kentucky.
Tryouts continue until Aug. 20. The team will travel to Puerto Rico for a five-team exhibition tournament before the FIBA Americas Championship (Aug. 31 to Sept. 12), where the top two teams will earn a berth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photos by Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks