Meats Don't Clash
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Ontario, Canada
Re: Canadian National Team Invites
Real happy for Canada Basketball.
About time this program started to move forward. The right people are in charge right now.
It was as if all the great minds and bodies of men’s basketball in Canada — old coaches and new players, young players and veteran coaches, volunteers and staff and people who just genuinely care about the game in the country — had one singular thought at the same time:
“Screw it. We’re Canada. We’re good and now it’s time to show the world.”
The first on-court day of Steve Nash’s tenure as the national senior men’s team general manager was a revelation, a shocking display of talent and enthusiasm at the Air Canada Centre on Friday and a bridging of eras unprecedented in Canadian basketball history.
It was, in a word, stunning in its scope.
There were former Olympians like Greg Francis and Peter Guarasci helping run the drills; former national team stalwart Dwight Walton was helping the big men work out; Jamaal Magloire went through the big man drills dispensing advice and encouragement at every turn; outstanding Canadian coaches like Carleton’s Dave Smart, Dave DeAveiro of McGill and former McMaster icon Joe Raso were assisting wherever needed; Steve Konchalski, the former national team head coach and St. Francis Xavier legend, was there to give out whatever advice he could; Roy Rana of Ryerson was working.
It was a sight never before seen.
And the talent?
Every NBA player from Canada took part in the day’s drills, there was 16-year-old budding star Trey Lyles stunning some observers with his skills, national team veterans like Montreal’s Joel Anthony and Kelly Olynyk were there, young prep school star Anthony Bennett was a late addition to the camp. Robert Sacre, a Laker draft pick, came in at the last minute.
And that was just the second group, the guards, with a two-time MVP working with them like he was one of the kids, were gone before the prying eyes of the media were allowed in the gym.
It was, truly, a day like no other.
“It was a phenomenal first day,” said Nash.
Perhaps is the fresh start under Nash and Triano, perhaps it’s the fact this is a weekend training camp rather than a selection process, perhaps it’s simply because there are more, better players available but the mood was collegial, with a common goal in mind.
“After watching the Olympics … I was sick to my stomach, I wanted to be part of it,” said Brampton’s Tristan Thompson. “It was cool to watch the USA win but I want to be part of that, I want to compete for a medal and I think that’s what other guys were thinking.”
Now, how this translates to the 2014 world championships or 2016 Rio Olympics is impossible to tell given the vagaries of the game with the inevitable injuries or retirements or the developmental stalls that will unquestionably hit.
But the feeling, from everyone in the gym, was that this is a special time for the sport in Canada and everyone wants to be a part of it.
“Look who showed up,” said Thompson. “I think all the top players are here now, it’s great for our country, I’m excited.”
The 16-year-old Lyles, a Saskatoon native who is a prep star standout in Indiana, was the youngest of the more than 30 players who took part on the day. Just about to enter Grade 11, he is of an era when the Canadian national team was, in many ways, anonymous; camps like this are changing that.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it at a young age but now since I’m older, it’s definitely one of the things I need to do,” he said.
“It’s an honour to play for them. You’re representing your country and going out there and showing everybody that you can play basketball.”
And beside the doorway to the Raptors practice facility hung a Canadian flag, a reminder of what the camp is about, what the future is, what the level of pride needs to be.
“We want to make sure they realize what we’re playing for,” said Nash. “We’re here to help these players get better individually right now but this is about a bigger picture. We want them to get better individually so they can have a great long career as individuals but we also want them — those of us like myself, Jay Triano, Rowan Barrett, some of the coaches who have come to work who have played in the Olympic Games — to have a chance to experience that.”