Hey, there’s basketball being played at the Air Canada Centre.
Canada basketball, senior men’s team, a few days of camp before they first head to Puerto Rico for an exhibition tournament and then stay there to take part in the world qualification tournament later this month and into the first week of September.
Leo Rautins has his team – it’s here in this release we got from the folks at Canada Basketball yesterday – and to say it’s a hugely significant tournament for the team would be an understatement.
As we’ve seen all summer, the programs for the younger kids have had some success – the Cadets qualified for the worlds, the juniors finished seventh at the world championships – but the senior men, really, haven’t done squat in several years and it’s about time they got back on the global stage.
The team is good – not great, but good – and filled with guys with international experience, which cannot be discounted at this level. It’s all well and good to say we’ve got some promising teenagers in the pipeline but this is a man’s tournament and it’s time for the men to step up.
It won’t be easy.
There are four world championship berths at stake and even though the Americans don’t have to get one – they get in the worlds as Olympic champions – there are a handful of very good teams Canada will have to play.
The Dominican Republic, for instance, is getting Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford and, we believe, Trevor Ariza. Argentina’s Argentina, Brazil’s chock full of talent and if Puerto Rico doesn’t qualify at home, the joke is they’ll keep everyone there until the run the tournament again and they do. Even Mexico, hardly a major player in the past, can now boast Eddie Najera and Earl Watson, which gives them one more NBAer than Canada has.
Talking with Leo – whose contract runs this year with an option for next that’s surely in question if they don’t make the worlds – he knows Canada’s in tough. This is how he put it when we chatted before they went to Europe:
“The reality is, we’re still younger and less experienced than our competition but that’s our world, we just have to find a way to not beat ourselves. The talent aspect? There’s nothing we can do about that, we just can’t beat ourselves in situations and that’s what we have to work on.
“Look at the NBA component on those other teams and then look at the EuroLeague component. We have one EuroLeague guy (Carl English). You can’t substitute for that so the next thing you have to do is you have to nearly play perfect basketball.”
We’ll get to more on this in the next little while because this team’s going to become the basketball story around these parts as this month turns into next.