Written by Charles Vanegas for On Point Basketball
On Thursday, the Canadian men’s national team announced its roster for the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup exhibition tournament in Puerto Rico (Aug. 23-26) — a tune-up for the FIBA Americas Championship (Aug. 31-Sept. 12), an Olympic qualifier that will send the top two teams to Rio 2016.
There were few surprises on the 13-man roster — which will still need to make one more cut before heading to Mexico City. Led by 2014-15 rookie-of-the-year Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves), shooting guard Nik Stauskus (Philadelphia 76ers) and point guard Cory Joseph (Toronto Raptors), Canada will have nine NBA players on the team.
While the Canadians will be without Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers) due to ongoing contract negotiations, the team’s depth and size up front will still play a major factor. Canada’s bigs include Anthony Bennett (Minnesota), Melvin Ejim (Orlando Magic), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks), Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics) and Robert Sacre (L.A. Lakers). The lone man from the Association not suiting up on the roster was 7-5 centre Sim Bhullar (Sacramento Kings) who had to deal with personal reasons according to Head Coach Jay Triano.
Bennett, a top performer for Canada’s silver-medal-winning Pan Am team, knows that the competition will be steeper this time around. And not just from Brazil, the team that beat them for gold in Toronto.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot harder. It’s the qualifier, so everyone’s going to give their all and bring their best,” said Bennett. “They’ve been telling us along the way that it’s going to be a very physical game… We’ve just got to stay within ourselves, not get ahead of ourselves, not complain to the refs. Because one play, you can complain to the refs and get a technical foul. It could be the first half and you have two fouls and you’re sitting out. We’ve got to play smart and be mentally strong.”
Head coach Triano told reporters last week that Team Canada’s youth could be its greatest strength or its greatest weakness at the upcoming FIBA Americas Championship. But it turns out they’ll be without their youngest member, Jamal Murray, who was left off the roster after not getting clearance from the NCAA to miss his first two weeks of class at the University of Kentucky. Triano mentioned Philip Scrubb (AEK Athens in Greece) and Olivier Hanlan (BC Zalgiris, Lithuania) as potential backups to Joseph, and it appears to be a situation he’s comfortable with — with both making the team over national team veteran Carl English, who, at 34, was the oldest man on the Pan Am team.
“Phil Scrubb and Olivier Hanlan are both capable of doing it. If we have to do it by committee for that spot, that’s fine,” said Triano. “We know that teams are going to try to take the ball from Cory’s hands, and we know how to deal with that with some of our offensive sets where they aren’t point guard dominant as far as controlling the ball.”
Finishing out the roster is national team mainstays Aaron Doornekamp (Braunschweig in Germany) and Brady Heslip (Pallacanestro Cantu in Italy).
Team Canada Training Camp
Photos by Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks