Canada entered the weekend with a great chance to advance to Spain for the World Cup next year. By the time the weekend was over they were eliminated and searching for answers. Canada’s first stumble on the road to Spain was a loss to the host nation Venezuela. This was really the first bit of adversity Team Canada had faced. They had a crowd watching them and cheering against them as well as some calls that were not going in their favour.
Andrew Nicholson would have two fouls and tech (which counts as a personal foul) before Canada could blink. Nicholson individually and Canada collectively could never really recover. What would become a theme for this Canadian group was to really feel pressure when falling behind. Canada became dependent on the three point shot as the weapon of choice to try to rally. It was a less than sound strategy for the most part.
Despite that loss Canada still had it’s destiny in their hands and a win over the Dominican Republic would have had them in prime position to advance. They came out and played a strong first quarter led in part by a motivated Andrew Nicholson who was eager to make up for his poor play the day before. Raptor fans could relate to what happened next as the ten point lead would be erased in less than three minutes and Canada would fall behind and be battling from behind the rest of the day.
Canada was in trouble now after this loss with a final game against Argentina being a must win situation and even with that win it might not have been enough. In fact as it played out it would not have been enough but at the time of the game Canada still had everything to play for. Similar to the game the day before Canada would come out strong and take control of the game. It would slip away as Argentina would rely on Luis Scola a three time MVP of this tournament who would take over. Canada had no answer for him. Canada frustration could be summed up in Andrew Nicholson who had a near meltdown when he was fouled tried to get position battling with an Argentina forward for position. Nicholson would explode and get a tech and needed his team to keep him for getting tossed altogether.
In the end the story on the surface ends like many have for Canada Basketball in the last dozen years or so. A closer look and you see the differences in this effort. Canada lost 4 games in this tournament and none of them you could say they were not in the games had their chances to win them. It was also a very young group many of which getting their first major experience with international basketball. It was a team that actually had choices to make about its roster. It was a team that has more talent yet to come in the future. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk are just three names you will expect to see next time for Canada that you did not see this time around.
You saw the growth of guys like Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Tristan Thompson. There were some surprises with a guy like Brady Heslip showing is deadly skill as a shooter. We all wanted more for this group and to see them progress to next summer and the World Cup. It wasn’t meant to be on this occasion but it was a major learning experience to getting to Rio in 2016 and perhaps being a real contender in 2020 for the Olympics that was announced over the weekend that will be in Tokyo.
Canada is an emerging basketball power and you only need look at the NCAA and the NBA as evidence of that. Soon that will translate to FIBA international competitions as it has already on lower levels. It just would have been nice if we could have had another summer to see this group gain experience and grow prior to attempting to qualify for Rio in 2015.
Steve Nash who put this group together took to twitter to motivate and inspire his troops make no mistake his presence at the core of this program is a huge factor in keeping this group together and bringing them together in the first place. Cory Joseph was showing the development a Nash did with Team Canada. Nash gives a lot of the credit to his rise in the NBA to his time with Team Canada. As this wave of Canadian Stars hit the league they look to follow that path of the NBA two-time MVP. Nash’s success in the NBA and the fact he credits his time with Canada Basketball as a factor in that is the biggest selling point for this program.