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Time to move on and reach Rio Olympics, says Canada’s Joseph
TORONTO (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Five months on since the disappointment of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, Canada point guard Cory Joseph insists it's time to move on and get the job done at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, Philippines (5-10 July).
The Canadians will open their OQT Group Phase campaign against Senegal and Turkey in Group A, looking to finish in the top two. If they achieve this, they will then face a team from a Group B that includes France, New Zealand and hosts Philippines in a Semi-Final clash. The teams that win the Semi-Finals will then meet in the Final with a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Games at stake.
Last September, in Mexico City, Mexico, Canada seemed poised to grab a spot in the title game of the FIBA Americas Championship - where the two finalists would secure direct qualification for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics - but against the odds they fell 79-78 to eventual champions Venezuela in the Semi-Finals.
Now, Joseph, who restored his national team's confidence with a game-winning shot with a second left against tournament hosts Mexico in the Third-Place Game, feels it is time to keep the momentum moving at the OQT.
"I felt like we were right there, we were rolling, we were playing good, it's just that one game that cost us from automatically going to Rio. I feel like we have another chance, and this time we got to put that much more effort to make it," the 25-year-old told FIBA.com.
The Canadians have never faced either of their OQT Group Phase opponents before and reaching the Olympics, for the first time since 2000 has now become a lot more challenging.
It’s going to be an intense tournament in a country that loves basketball. - Joseph
"Everyone has the same dream of going to Rio and every game is going to be very competitive. France and Turkey have a lot of experience, but every team is going to Manilla with ambition.
Asked about the team's strategy for the OQT as well as lessons taken from the Mexico City qualifier, the Toronto Raptors guard said: "[We need] the experience that we didn’t have in Mexico City. It was our first time that we all had been together. This upcoming summer we all have been together for a year, and we got to know each other’s game, it’s just more about experience. We have a lot of talent and we are very young.
I don’t want to speak for everybody, but, pretty sure I will be available [to represent my country]. - Joseph
Looking back at the FIBA Americas Championship, some wonder how Canada went from demolishing Venezuela 82-62 in Group B to seeing their Olympic aspirations turned upside down by the same team.
As for Joseph, he recalled: "It was frustrating as we had maybe our worst game of the tournament at the worst moment. Venezuela outplayed us. In this kind of competition, every team is talented and plays with a lot of passion. It was disappointing not to reach the gold medal and clinch a direct spot to Rio. Now, our minds are focused on Manilla. We got to fight for our lives to get a spot to the Olympic tournament."
Cory Joseph (CAN)
Even former Canadian international Steve Nash, now serving as the national General Manager, admits the team lacked international competition grip.
Steve Nash (CAN)
"Inexperience was a huge factor in last summer's results," Nash said on the Canada Basketball website. "It was heartbreaking, but it allowed us to grow as a team. The players, coaches and staff all have another year under our belts and know we have a lot yet to accomplish."
Joseph, one of the many Canadians currently playing in the NBA, also pointed to Nash's impact and role in the country's basketball.
"He has been very important. He has turned around the whole atmosphere within the national team. He has done a lot of great stuff behind the scenes - that people haven't seen - and has had a huge impact for the national team," said the 1.91m guard.
Should Canada qualify for the Olympics, Joseph would increase his chances of making his second world stage appearance since the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men, held in New Zealand.