Follow FIBA on Facebook
Canada coach Rana: We should have a legit chance for a medal
TORONTO (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Canada have never reached the podium at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. But Roy Rana believes his Canadian junior national team could be considered contenders to win a medal this summer in Cairo.
Canada's improved talent pool has led to higher expectations in international competitions as well as higher ambitions.
"We're not at a point where we feel pressure, it's just a question of trying to be as good as we can be. If we are, then we should have a legit chance to play for a medal," said Rana, whose Canadians have been drawn into Group C along with Spain, Japan and Mali.
"It's expectation from everybody involved - coaches, players. It's part of our culture. We’re striving to be the best we can be. And I think it's really about managing expectations and managing a process."
Rana will be coaching at his third U19 global spectacle after losing to eventual champions United States in the Quarter-Finals in 2013 before taking sixth place and then getting knocked off by finalists Croatia in the quarters in 2015 en route to a fifth-placed finish.
But there is no mental block with Team Canada regarding the Quarter-Finals, Rana insisted.
"In recent times it has been a challenge, but credit our competition. These are tournaments with great teams and anybody can be in the final four," he said. "And that is our goal here. Also to try to play for gold and win the whole thing. That's certainly the mentality of our kids. That's now the mentality of our country and I think that's good."
Rana said it is still very, very early in the U19 preparations and admitted that he and his staff do not have a lot of information about the other teams in his pool.
"We don't know much about any of the teams. Obviously Spain is a traditional power in Europe and one of the better teams in the world so that will certainly be a challenge for us," he said. "We'll have to look and explore a little bit about Mali, and Japan is traditionally a team that can really shoot it, getting up a lot of threes. We're not going to be under the assumption that it's going to be an easy road getting out out of our pool. We will be ready for everybody, but respect everybody as well."
Rana also said his team and country's fans should not be thinking about a final against the United States - which was the case at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2016 where the US won 99-84.
Canada and the United States have battled in the finals of the last two FIBA U18 Americas Championships.
"We're not going to be naive or foolish and look ahead and be concerned about a potential gold medal game against the US. That's not something that historically has been possible for us. We just have to take it step by step and not look ahead of any team," the coach said.
Rana said he and his coaching staff will likely begin calling the team together in late May or early June. Rana also believes he will get most of his country’s top eligible players for Cairo 2017.
"I feel confident that we will be able to field a strong roster," he said. "I think our kids love playing for our country. I think it’s been a positive experience at the youth level and they are excited."
Excited and with higher expectations than in the past.