25 August, 2023
10 September
2 Shai Gilgeous-alexander (CAN)
to read

Qualified Team Focus - Canada: Young star talent wants country's first podium finish

MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.

After Spain and Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, and Germany 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

Canada's years of strong development of talent has resulted in a stunning list of young stars who could help Canada compete for a spot on the podium this summer. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showed during the Americas Qualifiers just how outstanding he can be, playing for the first time for Canada since he was 17 years old. He will undoubtedly be one of the leaders for the Canadians.

But Nurse will have many other NBA players to line up alongside him, including RJ Barrett, Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk, Nick Alexander-Walker, Cory Joseph, Dwight Powell, Oshae Brissett, Dillon Brooks, Khem Birch, Lugentz Dort, Shaedon Sharpe, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard and Caleb Houstan.

Kassius Robertson is one of three Canadians who appeared in the first 10 games in the Americas Qualifiers

Nurse has a true embarrassment of riches as he also has a choice of some players excelling in Europe including the trio of Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb and Kassius Robertson who played in the first 10 Americas Qualifiers games, as well as Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos, Melvin Ejim and Kenny Chery.