United Canada Basketball ready to do big things after World Cup qualification

Fractured for decades, Canada Basketball has built itself into a unified force, one big, happy family if you will. The results have been medals at the youth levels and now, stemming from last week’s 94-67 drubbing of Brazil on the road, the senior men’s first World Cup berth since 2010.

In order to qualify for the event, which will be held in 2019 in China, 35 different players suited up for Canada. Some from the NBA, some from the G League, some toil in Europe, many came through U Sports in this country.

“It shows our players are committed to our country,” Canada Basketball executive vice-president and assistant general manager Rowan Barrett told Postmedia over the phone earlier this week. “When you see players coming from (where they play professionally in) Russia to go to Venezuela (to suit up), it’s phenomenal,” Barrett said, lauding the three different head coaches and all of the staffers who played roles in Canada finally breaking through.

Having a singular style “that is unique to you, the Canadian way we want to play,” he said, was a key. As has been giving the players their own space at Humber College in Toronto, where they can spend the summer getting hand-on development tips, using the workout facilities and generally building the familial atmosphere.

“It’s given them a home base and it’s also given them an understanding that Canada Basketball cares about me and my development in and out of season,” Barrett said. Program alumni like Jermaine Anderson and Denham Brown and highly touted young coach Nathaniel Mitchell and others like Ryerson’s Roy Rana, who led the victory in Brazil are often around helping out and conversing with players.

“Everyone’s working together to help each other. I think that’s been a huge cultural definer for us. Hopefully we can continue going and develop a team and build a team and go after our goals and in the process hopefully make Canada proud,” Barrett said.

Only the United States has more current NBA players and Barrett, Steve Nash and the rest of the braintrust are going to have a heck of a time trying to choose a 12-man roster. He’s quite OK with it.

“To me, this is not a problem. I think any country would love to have a ton of players to choose from to put their team together, to get a chance to win (medals),” Barrett said.

“You’ll never hear me complaining that we have too many players to choose from. I think at the same time, we have to understand that (while talent) is great, we have to put the best team on the court. The best team is not necessarily the most talented, so that’s important to know.”

Canada famously had a stacked, but young and inexperienced roster in Mexico City in 2015 that fell agonizingly short of qualifying for the Olympics (Canada has not done so since 2000. The top eight teams at the World Cup qualify for 2020 in Tokyo).

Barrett said that talent, fit, recent development curves and the degree of prior commitment to the program will all be major factors in how the roster is selected.

“It’s paramount that that’s the mindset of the athletes that are coming are, how are they entering? Are they entering with understanding the group is bigger than the name? And our goal is bigger than the name,” Barrett asked.

“What we’re playing for is bigger than the name. It’s our country. I think when players come in with this kind of mindset of what it takes for us to win, we’re in good stead. We have a good opportunity.”


Canada continues to produce highly-touted NBA prospects. R.J. Barrett is a potential No. 1 overall pick this June and a recent CBS.com ranking of the top-performing NCAA freshmen listed Barrett, of Mississauga, second, Montreal’s Luguentz Dort third and Lithuania born, Oakville raised Iggy Brazdeikis sat fourth on the list. There are other up-and-comers on the way too who will fight for roster spots down the line, whether it’s as soon as the 2019 World Cup, or the Olympics behind that. How will Canada decide when they are ready to suit up?

“Their rate of development and how soon they can kind of catch on and hold on with other players, playing against top teams will kind of determine when they can join (the team), if nothing else,” Canada Basketball assistant general manager/executive vice president Rowan Barrett told Postmedia this week.

Barrett mentioned how letting future NBAers Jamal Murray, Dillon Brooks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander come to camp and even play on senior teams when they were younger to give them valuable experience panned out and how that might continue.

“If they can hold on (and show they deserve to be there), then they hold on. If they can’t, then they’ve got to wait their turn,” Barrett said of son R.J. and the rest.


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