25 August, 2023
10 September
2 Shai Gilgeous-alexander (CAN)
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FIBA Exclusive: Q&A with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

OKLAHOMA CITY (USA) - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his ascent to elite status this past summer with his spellbinding displays for Canada in the Americas Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The Toronto native did pretty much anything he wanted in three games for the national team, helping Canada become the only country in the Americas to so far clinch a place in next year's 32-team tournament. In the third window of the Americas Qualifiers on July 1 against the Dominican Republic in Hamilton, Ontario, Gilgeous-Alexander had a game-high 32 points on 11 of 22 shooting.


Three days later in the Caribbean, Canada rolled to a big win over the Virgin Islands in Saint Thomas and again, Gilgeous-Alexander dazzled, scoring 24 points on 11 of 13 shooting from the floor. Against the stiffest competition of all, in the fourth window on August 25, Gilgeous-Alexander tore apart a Facundo Campazzo-led Argentina, with 23 points and eight assists. He helped Canada take it to a different level, and provide a snapshot of what is to come next year when the World Cup is staged in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

Gilgeous-Alexander then carried the momentum of his terrific summer into the NBA season and looked like an All-Star. Third in the league in scoring at 31.1 points per game, he's had a 42-point game, a 39-point game and three 37-point games. He's making clutch shots, too. Gilgeous-Alexander is in the early running for the Most Improved Player award.

He has spoken to FIBA.basketball.

Shai, what was it like playing for Canada?

It was great, both practicing and playing for my country. We always learn a lot; we're able to work on our chemistry. Whenever I can, I play for the national team and wear this great jersey. I love it. It was a great way to also get ready for this season, so I really feel good. Last summer was very constructive.

You looked very comfortable out there.

The FIBA game is a bit different to what I am used to but I like the whole experience. I try to help the team on both sides of the court, try to be a good leader and help create for the team, too. I have the ball in my hands a lot, so that gives me responsibility and I have to be efficient and impactful every time. We won those games and now we have to keep working as hard as we have the last couple of years. The best is yet to come for Canada's basketball.

What were your thoughts after Canada beat Venezuela in November to clinch a spot in the World Cup?

I was very proud of the guys for what they did, and for the commitment of everyone that has played to get Canada qualified. It's a great achievement for us, for Canada basketball. And having an undefeated run is also a proof that we can compete at the highest level. Only winning in an entire qualifying campaign is great and we had some very good wins away from home, which also gives all of us experience and shows what we're capable of at this level. The staff and the federation have done a fantastic job.

Speaking about the Canada players, there will be a lot of competition for the final 12 spots on the World Cup team.

The pool is deep, and the coaching staff has a lot of options, a lot of players to select, and I think that also shows that Canadian basketball is getting big. We have so many talented players that compete in the best leagues in the world. Coach (Nick) Nurse and the staff have been getting the best chemistry and also having guys that compete in different leagues to come together and get the best our of everyone. The present is very exciting, the future is bright. We have all the ingredients to do great and win.

What will be the goal at the World Cup, now that you have qualified?

We'd like to do well, and win something. There are still many months before the training camp and the start of the World Cup, but the goal will be to have a long run, and see if we can bring something home. We all want to win titles and medal, and add trophies to the history of Canada basketball. The tournament is going to be very interesting, being in Asia and knowing that the level of competitiveness is going to be very, very high, and we're all excited. It's going to be a great two-year cycle with the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics in 2024. We want to make the most of the opportunities.

Gilgeous-Alexander sailed through the air for a basket against the Dominican Republic

You were clearly a leader this summer.

I enjoy having responsibilities and being one of the leaders. I'm here to help the team and be vocal, also because I play as a guard and I have to help put the plays on and organize how the team plays, too. I'm very comfortable in that role, and I'm also a hard worker, so I want to keep getting better with the ball in my hands, or without it, and to be the best leader I can. Also, by being a leader, you have to be someone that is not scared of the moment, and take shots and responsibilities when the team needs it. Last second shots, things like that, I'm very comfortable with that kind of responsibility. We have a lot of guys on the team that have that role, too.

You grew up in Toronto and now you're of the rising stars of the NBA. Talk about your  your basketball journey.

It's amazing.  I'm very happy to represent my city and my country in the NBA and at international level. Basketball is a passion, and I want, every day, to be an inspiration for fellow Canadians and to make them proud. Me, and every other Canadian player, we're also here to help our sport reach the highest level and people know that Canada is a big country of basketball. We've been doing very well and will keep doing fantastic things to put Canada among the top teams of the world.