25 August, 2023
10 September
2 Shai Gilgeous-alexander (CAN)
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Qualified Team Focus - Canada: Young star talent wants country's first podium finish

MIES (Switzerland) - It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few weeks. Next up up is the number 15 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, two-time FIBA AmeriCup runners-up and 1984 Olympic Semi-Finalists Canada.

How did they qualify

Canada went into the Americas Qualifiers in November 2021 after the disappointment of missing out on the Tokyo Olympics despite hosting one of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.

Canada's head coach Nick Nurse handed the reins during the qualification campaign and the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 to his assistant coaches Nate Bjorkgren and Nathaniel Mitchell. And Canada qualified as the first team from the Americas with one window to spare.

Canada showed right away that they were not messing around with victories by 42 and 36 points over Bahamas in the first window. The top challenger in Group C was Dominican Republic but Canada took care of business in the February 2022 window with an 85-79 victory thanks to Kyle Wiltjer and Phil Scrubb combining for 29 points.

After brushing off Virgin Islands in the other game that window, Canada got some of their NBA stars for the July 2022 window. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander torched the Dominicans for 32 points and Kelly Olynyki collected 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 95-75 blowout at home to lock up first place in the group.

The NBA duo shined in Canada's big 99-87 home victory over Argentina in the opening game of Group E in the Second Round. Gilgeous-Alexander tallied 23 points and 8 assists and Olynyki added 21 points and 7 rebounds. The other game in the August 2022 window was a 56-point blowout of Panama.

Kelly Olynyk stood out in his Americas Qualifiers appearances

The FIBA AmeriCup 2022 followed immediately thereafter without the NBA players and Canada lost to hosts Brazil in the Semi-Finals and then fell to United States in the Third Place Game to leave the tournament empty-handed.

The North Americans were unfazed as they returned to the World Cup Qualifiers in November 2022 and registered a 38-point rout of Venezuela to lock up their spot in Indonesia, Japan and Philippines. Canada finished the window with a 41-point win over over Panama - finishing the fifth window with a perfect 10-0 record in the campaign.

Best result at the World Cup

Canada have qualified for the World Cup for the 15th time and the first time for back-to-back appearances since a run of nine consecutive showings from 1974 to 2002. Their best finishes came in 1978 and 1982 when they finished sixth in a Semi-Final round. Since then, the North Americans finished seventh in the 1994 Quarter-Final round.

Steve Nash at the 1994 World Cup

Last World Cup appearances

After the string of nine straight tournaments Canada failed to make the World Cup in 2006 and then went winless at 0-5 in the group stage in 2010 and finished 22nd.

Canada missed the 2014 tournament and then returned in 2019, but were drawn into a tough Group H. Canada lost to Australia 108-92 and then fell to Lithuania 92-69 to miss out on the Second Round and finished 21st overall after beating Senegal and Jordan.

Players to watch

New head coach Jordi Fernandez has announced an amazing squad on July 13th. All-NBA First Team guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is in the list, so is recently crowned NBA champion Jamal Murray and New York Knicks star RJ Barrett.

A great squad, and plenty of cohesion, will be required for Canada after they were drawn into a "group of death," Group H, with France, Latvia and Lebanon. Their First Round games will be played in Jakarta, Indonesia, with a top-two finish needed to advance to the Second Round.

Gilgeous-Alexander had a spectacular season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 31.4 points and 5.5 assists per game, while Murray poured in 20.0 points in the regular season and 26.1 points per game in the playoffs as Denver captured the NBA title for the first time in club history.

Barrett, the 2017 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup MVP after leading Canada to the championship, averaged 19.6 points per game in 2022-23 - his fourth season with the Knicks - and 19.3 points per game in the playoffs.

The 18-man roster is loaded and will fuel Canada's hopes of not only reaching the podium but challenging for the title.

Dillon Brooks (Houston Rockets), Oshae Brissett (Boston Celtics), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Minnesota Timberwolves), Cory Joseph (Golden State Warriors), Kelly Olynyk (Utah Jazz) and Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks) are other NBA players on the list.