Murray is all in for Canada: ''Going to the Olympics would be a dream come true''
DENVER (USA) - Jamal Murray is so eager to represent Canada next summer after missing out on the FIBA Basketball World Cup that he's already announced his plan to be with the team for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in June.
The fact that one of the four tournaments is going to be on home soil in Victoria, he says, will make the occasion even sweeter.
"It's huge to be able to play at home, I am so excited about it," he said. "You always have a special feeling when you can compete in front of your countrymen and I am sure that everyone is very excited and looking forward for this tournament.
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This past summer, Jamal Murray was sidelined by an injury and had to support from the sidelines. The FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifier in June 2020 will be a different story. #WeAreTeamCanada #CanadaBasketball #StandOnGuard — “I want to play my part to help push our team into the Olympics and compete at the highest world stage. Let’s go Canada 🇨🇦🇨🇦” - @jmglitxh27
"Victoria's fans are going to be a huge plus for us, and we're counting on them to be our sixth man."
Murray, who last represented Canada when they hosted the 2015 Pan American Games, is also looking forward to suiting up for coach Nick Nurse, who led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title earlier this year and was then handed the reins to Canada's national team.
Canada fought hard under Nurse at the World Cup but lost to Australia and Lithuania in the First Round and did not advance.
"COACH NURSE HAD TO DEAL WITH A LOT OF INJURED PLAYERS AND GUYS THAT COULDN'T MAKE IT WITH THE NATIONAL TEAM LAST SUMMER, BUT WE SAW THAT HE IS A GREAT COACH BY THE WAY HE TAUGHT AND MADE THE YOUNG GROUP OF PLAYERS HE WORKED WITH BETTER."
"The team did show a lot of good things in my opinion," Murray said. "Coach Nurse is a great coach, and he did help the players grow and the team gained experience for the future. The guys played hard in every game, and they did show very good and positive signs.
"Coach Nurse had to deal with a lot of injured players and guys that couldn't make it with the national team last summer, but we saw that he is a great coach by the way he taught and made the young group of players he worked with better. Playing at international level makes you improve your game. Everybody is coming back better and stronger next summer."
Nurse will coach Murray at the OQT in Victoria
Canada made it to the Manila FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Final in 2016 before losing a close contest to France. That was a tough tournament and next year's tournament will be, too.
Greece and China will be Canada's Group A opponents while Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey will be in Group B.
"We'll have to be 100 percent focused and playing at our best level to go to the next round and win it all to go to Tokyo 2020," Murray said. "Greece is a very solid team, they have a lot of experience and they know how to play at this high level. They have very good players, and there is not only Giannis Antetokounmpo. That would be a mistake to just focus on him.
"They have a lot of very good guys. China is good, too, and we will have to play every game at our best level in order to not be surprised."
“WE'RE GOING TO BUILD THE BEST TEAM WE CAN ... WE HAVE SO MANY TALENTED GUYS, WE CAN DO AMAZING THINGS BY WORKING ALL TOGETHER.”
And if they reach Tokyo?
"Going to the Olympics would be so fantastic, it would be a dream come true," Murray said.
Murray does say that missing out on the World Cup was disappointing.
"I really wanted to come and be part of the team but I couldn't because of an injury," he said. "I want to help Canada keep growing and for the national team to be one of the best in the world. My announcement (about playing this summer) was to show the guys that I'm all in."
Murray is right now on a Denver Nuggets team that's among the best in the NBA's Western Conference.
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He wants Canada to be among the best national teams in the world, too.
"I think that we're going to do fantastic things very soon," he said. "We have a great coaching staff, very good guys at the Canada's basketball federation, and our pool of players is getting bigger and better every year.
"We're going to build the best team we can. We have so many talented guys, we can do amazing things by working all together."