Pangos leads Zalgiris to 8th consecutive LKL (Lithuanian) title

For those perplexed about why point guard Kevin Pangos is not en route to Richmond, B.C. to prepare for Canada’s early summer qualifying campaign, look no further than the results from the Lithuanian Pro league from last night (hat tip to our diligent Southern Alberta correspondent) when he Zalgiris club captured their 8th consecutive LKL (top league in Lithuania) championship with an 80-70 victory over Lietuvos rytas, coming back from a halftime deficit.  Pangos contribured 10 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists, teaming with fellow back-court mate Beno Udrih (former NBA player with San Antonio and others).

Congratulations to Pangos as he completes what was a rigorous 2017-18 campaign that included an unprecedented run to the Euro League Final 4 in Serbia where Pangos led his team to the Bronze medal.  And for our friend to help us understand the likely reason why Pangos could not play during this early summer cycle for Canada.


Revised Canada Sr. roster without Murray, Pangos & Thompson but adds RJ & Nembhard

Canada Basketball earlier today release a revised Summer 2018 training camp roster with a few notable changes from the initial roster released earlier this month.  Unfortunately, the whispers that had 6’5″ Jamal Murray (Denver) not playing this summer have been confirmed – Murray has been extremely loyal to the program for many summers and has been battling an injury which likely has kept him out.  Given his history with the program, seeing Murray back with the team in September for the first set of Round 2 qualifiers remains a distinct possibility.

6’3″ Kevin Pangos, who recently signed a lucrative contract with FC Barcelona of the Spanish League also will not attend; while not confirmed, the likelihood is that the new deal for now precludes Pangos from participating.  Finally, 6’11” Tristan Thompson, coming off another long, hard NBA playoff run is likely in need of rest – again Thompson has been a loyal warrior for Canada for numerous summers and the hope is that he will back in the discussion come early September.

Thankfully Canada’s talent pool is deep and the losses above present an opportunity for two rising NCAA freshmen:  6’7″ R.J. Barrett and 6’3″ Andrew Nembhard both of who will be in camp beginning this Wednesday at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C.  Many observers believe Barrett has a legitimate shot at grabbing a spot on this roster especially given the opportunities on the wing with this group.

Nembhard comes off an impressive showing at the FIBA Americas U-18 qualifier and is less likely to stick given the back-log of experienced point guards that include 6’2″ Cory Joseph (who will not play in Canada’s two exhibitions vs. China), 6’3″ Phil Scrubb and 6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane.

The 17 players on the roster (15 of which will participate in the Richmond camp) break down as follows:

Point Guards:  Cory Joseph, Phil Scrubb, Kaza Kajami-Keane, Andrew Nembhard

Wings:  Melvin Ejim, Dillon Brooks, Thomas Scrubb, Brady Heslip, Olivier Hanlan, Aaron Best, R.J. Barrett

Forwards:  Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Khem Birch, Andrew Nicholson, Chris Boucher, Anthony Bennett.

Best Guess for twelve man roster for games vs. China (Joseph and Birch unavailable):

Phil Scrubb, Kaza Kajami-Keane, Melvin Ejim, Dillon Brooks, Thomas Scrubb, Brady Heslip, Olivier Hanlan, R.J. Barrett, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Andrew Nicholson, Chris Boucher.

Best Guess for twelve man roster for official qualifier games vs. Dominican Republic and U.S. Virgin Islands:

Cory Joseph, Phil Scrubb, Melvin Ejim, Dillon Brooks, Thomas Scrubb, Brady Heslip, R.J. Barrett, Olivier Hanlan, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Andrew Nicholson, Khem Birch.

Go Canada !

Canada’s U17 team ready to take on the world in Argentina

While Canada Basketball has not officially announced the 12 man roster that will represent at the FIBA World U17 championships beginning 30 June 2018 in Argentina, multiple sources are confirming that the roster will include several of Canada’s top names (see list below that we compiled independently from these multiple sources).

Canada will be led by Manitoba Bisons Head Coach Kirby Schepp (who honored Canada Basketball’s wishes that the official roster be released by Canada Basketball – which is pending).

According to these multiple sources, this appears to be Canada’s 12 man roster:

5’11” Shemar Rathan-Mayes (Scarborough, ON/Orangeville Prep/CIA Bounce) a point guard who averaged 24 mpg and 13.4 ppg last summer as Canada captured silver at the FIBA Americas qualifier.

6’1″ Keyshawn Barthelemy (Montreal, PQ/Athlete Institute/Brookwood Elite) another point guard who is now playing in Toronto and is rated by NPH as the #11 player in the Class of 2020.

6’4″ Luka Sakota (Etobicoke, ON/King’s Christian College/Canada Elite) a shooting guard/wing who averaged 11.4 ppg last summer, shooting 42% from three in almost 20.0 mpg.

6’5″ Cashius McNeilly (Toronto, ON/St. Joseph’s Catholic Central/Canada Elite) who averaged a team-high 14.4 ppg and shot 48% from three as one of Canada’s main offensive weapons last summer.  NPH has McNeilly as their #2 player overall in the Class of 2020.

6’6″ Addison Patterson (Milton, ON/Athlete Institute/CIA Bounce) who comes off a strong performance for our U-17 team that finished second at the FIBA Americas tournament in St. Catharines that concluded this past weekend.  NPH ranks Patterson as the #1 player overall in the Class of 2020.

6’6″ Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (Lakeshore, ON/Orangeville Prep/CIA Bounce) a three-man with tremendous athleticism who was not part of Canada’s roster last summer.

6’7″ Ben Krikke (Edmonton, AL/Jasper Place H.S./Team Alberta) a tough forward who contributed 5.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last summer for Canada.

6’7″ Keon Ambrose-Hylton (Toronto, ON/Hamilton Heights/Nike UPlay Canada) who plays at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, TN. and is regarded as the #3 ranked player in the state of Tennessee and a 4-star guy by 247 Sports.

6’8″ Tre-Vaughn Minott (Montreal, PQ/St. Laurent Ecole/Team Quebec) a big, strong low post presence who plays high school basketball in the Montreal area.

6’8″ Josh Hemmings (Toronto, ON/Oak Hill Academy/Nike UPlay Canada), the #3 ranked player in the Class of 2020 by NPH who plays at storied Oak Hill Academy in Mouth-of-Wilson, Virginia, a perennial USA high school power.

6’8″? Caleb Houstan (Mississauga, ON/St. Marcellinus/CIA Bounce) a very promsing underage guard ranked #1 in the Class of 2022 by NPH making his first appearance for Canada.

6’11” Charles Bediako (Brampton, ON/Ridley College/Nike UPlay Canada) who played sparingly with Canada’s U17 FIBA Americas team this past week and was also a substitute last season with U15’s, averaging 15 minutes per game and 4 ppg.

If the above list is correct, Canada returns five players from last season’s FIBA Americas qualifier including McNeilly, Rathan-Mayes, Krikke, Sakota and Bediako, which amounts to about 100 minutes per game and about 50 points per game (Canada averaged 75 ppg).

Canada adds at least two impact new faces in Patterson who figures to log big minutes as well as Hemmings, who is likely to be a rotation regular as well.  Hylton has experience playing in the U.S.  A pair of Montreal-bred newcomers are Minott, who brings size and a physical presence inside and Barthelemy, who figures to get back-up minutes at the point.  The underage Houstan and Moncrieffe apparently round out the roster.

Canada will compete in Group C of the preliminary round with New Zealand, Egypt and Montenegro, beginning the tournament on Saturday June 30th at 2:15 PM Eastern time against Montenegro in Rosario, Argentina.  Montenegro features guard 6’4″ Stefan Vlahovic (Baloncesto Sevilla Spanish pro league) who led his club in scoring at 16.3 ppg helping his country reach the FIBA U16 European Championship game which they lost to France.  The tournament championship was played in Podgorica, Montenegro in front of Vlahovic’s home fans.  Montenegro also features the youngest player ever to play for his senior national team in 6’6″ Jovan Kljajic, a shooting guard who averaged 14.3 ppg in the qualifiers and plays professionally for CB Gran Canaria (one of Spain’s Canary Islands) while 6’7″ Marko Kljajevic plays for Mega Bemax in Belgrade, Serbia.  Other important contributors last summer including 6’6′ Bojan Tomasevic (13.6 ppg/35 mpg) and 6’8″ Viktor Vujisic (10.6 ppg/28 mpg) as Montenegro rode their top 4-5 players for major minutes.

This will be a tough group for Canada with a difficult game right out of the box against the European finalists.

Canada will spend a few days at a Basketball without Borders event in Mexico this week before departing for Argentina to prepare for the U19 Worlds.

Canada’s Sr. Men begin summer preparations this Wednesday, June 20th

While last night’s U18 loss to USA is generally disappointing, international basketball fans have only a short time before attention turns to our Senior Men’s team which begins camp this Wednesday, June 20th in Richmond, B.C. with a pair of exhibition games against China scheduled for next weekend.  Canadian Head Coach Jay Triano, who just inked a deal as Lead Assistant with the Charlotte Hornets, and his staff will welcome 18 players to camp with a view of finalizing a 12 man roster for their 29th June date at home in Toronto vs. Dominican Republic.

Notable names on the roster include 6’2″ Cory Joseph (Indiana Pacers), 6’11” Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat), 6’11” Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks), 6’5″ Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets) and 6’10” Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), although Murray was officially undecided on participating according to an interview in early June.

Assuming Murray plays, the five players above provide a world-class, complementary (two solid guards, two big skilled wing forwards and a rim protecting, rebounding five man) core rotation that is likely to be augmented with the likes of 6’9″ Khem Birch (Orlando Magic), 6’7″ Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies), 6’7″ Melvin Ejim (BC Unics/Kazan, Russia), 6’3″ Phil Scrubb (Germany) and 6’7″ Thomas Scrubb (Italy).  Also in the mix coming off a tremendous season in Europe is 6’3″ Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), who rose to prominence this past season by leading his Lithuanian club team to the Euro League Final Four and recently signed in Spain with storied club FC Barcelona in a multi-million dollar deal.

6’2″ Brady Heslip (Baylor) has historically provided Canada with zone-breaking perimeter shooting while 6’10” Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure) just finished his first season in the Chinese professional league after several NBA seasons.

Others invited to camp include 6’10” Chris Boucher (Oregon), on a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors and their G-league affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors, 6’5″ Aaron Best and 6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane (both Raptors 905 NBA G-League), 6’5″ Olivier Hanlan (Austin Spurs, NBA G-League) and former #1 overall NBA draft pick 6’9″ Anthony Bennett (Maine Red Claws, NBA G-League).

With only two days of camp before meeting China on Friday, June 22nd (inaugural Pacific Rim Challenge at Rogers Place in Vancouver) and Sunday, June 24th (at Save on Foods Memorial Center in Victoria), roster decisions will have to be made rather quickly – Canada plays for keeps against Dominican Republic just five days after next Sunday’s China exhibition game.

Recall, DR handed Canada their only loss of the present qualification round 88-76 in Santiago.  Assuming both Canada and Dominican Republic advance to the next round of qualification, games against advancing opponents count in the next round standings.  Thus it is important in any future tie breaking scenarios that Canada win by more than 12 at home.

Very little is presently known about Dominican’s possible roster for later this month although DR does have two high-end NBA players who have represented their country in the past in 6’10” Al Horford (Boston Celtics) and 7’0″ Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) plus 6’7″ Luis Montero who has had NBA time on the rosters of both Detroit and Portland and is presently with Stockton Kings of the NBA G-League.

Nonetheless, Canada looks to capture Group D outright with a sweep over Dominican (including winning by 13 or more) and U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday, July 2nd in Ottawa.  Canada will be one of 12 countries to advance to the Second Round of the FIBA Americas 2019 World Cup qualification and in the second round will be placed in one of two six-team groups.  The second round begins in mid-September with games between 13-17 September followed by another set of games 29 November to 3 December and then 21 February through 25 February, 2019.

The top 7 teams will advance to China 2019.

USA dominates Canada in transition, on the glass to easily capture FIBA Americas U18 Gold

Breaking open the game early in the second quarter, the USA closed the first half on 54-19 run, getting numerous early scores in transition and generally dominating inside at both ends in a convincing 113-74 win over Canada to capture the FIBA Americas U18 Gold medal in St. Catharines.  Both teams advance to next summer’s FIBA World U-19 championship at a site yet to be officially announced on the FIBA website.

While the back-court and wing trio of 6’4″ Quentin Grimes (17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists/headed to Kansas), 6’2″ Bronx, NY native Cole Anthony (18 points) and 6’4″ Coby White (11 points, 6 rebounds/headed to North Carolina) had their way in transition and generally off the dribble slashing to the rim against Canada, USA really dominated the glass and paint as 6’9″ Armando Bacot Jr. and 6’8″ Jeremiah Robinson-Earl combined for 27 points and 15 rebounds plus 5 blocks, setting tone protecting the rim that helped alter numerous Canadian takes to the rim, leading to several missed lay-ups and bunnies around the rim.  Comparatively our bigs could not measure up to the tandem inside and underrated 6’9″ Matthew Hurt, a highly-effective stretch four for who Canada had no comparative match-up.

Canada also once again struggled with their shooting going just 33% from the field and 12-20 from the free throw line and missing several wide open 3’s at key parts when a make could have turned the momentum around.

Our group played valiantly and hard on virtually every possession but last night’s game exposed a comparative lack of big-man development and perimeter shooting among other things at this level.  While 6’7″ Tyrese Samuel had a couple of spectacular put-back slams, his offensive game at present is reminiscent of someone like former LSU star Tyrus Thomas:  wonderful athleticism attacking the “o” glass and in transition however little low-post or mid-range game presence and some propensity to abstain from the more physical parts of rebounding and defending.  6’10” Jaden Bediako had an uneven tournament from this observer’s perspective, generally not a factor defensively when put in the ball screen and unwilling to submit to the physical pounding needed to keep better athletes off the glass at the defensive end.  Bediako’s hands are improving however his motor/compete level requires escalation on a consistent basis to be effective in games involving the likes of USA’s Bacot and Robinson-Earl or Argentina’s 7’0″ Francisco Caffaro (Virginia).

6’3″ Andrew Nembhard started the game well however USA made some defensive adjustments guarding the ball screen and once their rim protectors got going, the entire Canadian group appeared to hear the proverbial foot-steps when attacking.  6’6″ Emanuel Miller again played valiantly but last night hopefully was incentive for him to further develop his mid-range and shooting skills out beyond the three point line plus a more competitive approach on the defensive glass.

6’6″ Addison Patterson‘s compete level remained strong and his ability to slash to the rim, especially in transition is high-end.  Last night’s game against a superior opponent revealed however, the relative “feast-or-famine” nature of his decision making at present, highlighted by a third quarter stretch when Patterson tried to make things happen off the bounce – probably not within the context of offense – and did make some solid plays but more times than not turned it over – if memory serves on three consecutive possessions.  Patterson is a star in the making and appeared to show all the signs of a wonderful attitude; over and above being a more consistent perimeter shooter, the challenge is to balance his baller’s instincts that can sometimes change games positively with the reality that high level basketball requires consistent high-level decision making abilities.

Most disappointing to this observer was the fact that 6’7″ R.J. Barrett, the #1 ranked high school player in the world and eligible to play for Canada was instead a spectator sitting court-side, choosing to miss playing in the first major international tournament on his home soil in over 30 years in order to train in Los Angeles as some reports have it.  Comparatively, USA had at least three players participate who are also headed to NCAA Division 1 programs this fall including Grimes (Kansas), White (North Carolina) and 6’3″ Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) plus 6’2″ Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky 2019).

Focus now shifts to Canada’s two senior men’s World Cup 2019 games later this month and in early July.

Go Canada !

Miller, Nembhard star as Canada moves to Gold medal game vs. USA

Canada 95, Puerto Rico 89… 6’6″ Emanuel Miller authored one of the more storied games in a big spot in recent Canadian international basketball history while 6’3″ Andrew Nembhard (17 assists) continued his fine quarterbacking as Canada held off a scrappy, competitive Puerto Rican side to advance to tomorrow night’s FIBA Americas U-18 championship game.

While Canada also got a number of key, big plays from 6’6″ Addison Patterson and some solid work late in the game by 6’7″ Tyrese Samuel, Miller was the story, dominating the glass with 9 “o” boards, finishing with 31 points on 13-22 shooting and 14 rebounds total.  Playing with a high motor in a big spot, Miller rescued several sluggish Canadian possessions keeping plays alive, slashing to the rim with 19 first-half points and even knocking down an important three midway through the fourth.  While his perimeter skills can improve, Miller’s effort at both ends energized Canada and he was the difference tonight.

The slick Nembhard did not have his best scoring or shooting night but had to deal with extra attention including Puerto Rico’s second-half decision to trap every ball screen and was again virtually perfect with his transition decision-making.  Coach Dave Smart adjusted to the double teams by moving 6’0″ Joel Brown to the point and running Nembhard off screens to some degree of success.

After a sluggish first three quarters – Brown picked up two first-half fouls and sat for a stretch – the lightning-quick lefty turned it up defensively in the final 10 minutes and finished the game for Canada, setting up Nembhard for a wide open three that would have given the home side a 14 point lead.  But the shot rattled out and Puerto Rico made their final real run with quick back-to-back threes to get it back to 8.

But Patterson, like he has in spurts for most of the tournament, made a pair of game-turning plays, including leaving his man to jump and steal a cross-court pass and then hammering home a two-hander that gave Canada the momentum back and essentially sealed it.  Patterson, who later got to the rim for a final “and 1″ on another big-time take, remains somewhat undisciplined on the defensive end and can over handle at times, but he has a baller’s instincts in big spots and again made important, winning plays when it mattered most.

Samuel contributed 11 points and 7 rebounds using his length and quick leaping ability, also making two big fourth-quarter free throws.  Dripping with athleticism, the lanky forward remains a work-in-progress defending the low post and generally with his offensive decision making but tonight down the stretch his contribution was impactful.

Canada had several double digit leads but the gritty Puerto Ricans hung in with some deft three point shooting before Patterson, Miller and Nembhard put it away.

6’5” A.J. Lawson returned from his injury and sat for a spell in the first half with two fouls but still had 14 points in 27 minutes; his return to top form will likely be critical tomorrow night vs. U.S.A. as again Canada can really only count on six players to contribute (although 6’4″ Jahcobi Neath did get time tonight as a defensive specialist down the stretch).

But tonight belonged to Miller, who brought energy and made numerous big momentum-saving baskets and was also very humble and well spoken in a post-game interview.

The expected gold medal game between Canada and the USA is now a reality and the stage is set for, among other features, the point guard match-up between 6’2″ Cole Anthony (Bronx, NY) and Nembhard, the top two point guards in the tournament.  Canada got some good news as Kentucky-bound and USA starter 6’3″ Tyrese Maxey is apparently out with an ankle injury but 6’4″ Quentin Grimes (Kansas), 6’9″ Matthew Hurt, 6’4″ Coby White (North Carolina) and young 6’8″ forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are among the stars that USA Head Coach Bill Self has leaned on throughout the tournament.

Expect USA to try to take the ball out of Nembhard’s hands and try to expose Canada’s relatively weak inside game (Canada gave up 21 offensive rebounds and solid post players like 7’0″ Francisco Caffaro of Argentina and tonight Puerto Rico’s 6’7″ Jorge Torres (headed to Post University) gave the Canadians (ex-Miller) difficulty.  Expect Canada to throw in some zone – which Canada used for 3-4 possessions tonight – and try to keep the Americans on the perimeter.  Expect an athletic, up-tempo affair.  Go Canada !

Canada claims top Group B seed with dominant win over Chile; Lawson injured

Breaking the game open midway through the second quarter, Canada got out in transition, generally defended well and scored in transition and on the offensive glass to finish Group B preliminary play with a dominant 97-60 win over Chile last night.  Once again, 6’3″ Andrew Nembhard was Canada’s catalyst with 17 of his team-high 19 points in the first half while 6’6″ Emanuel Miller (17 points, 7 rebounds) continues to influence the game at both ends with maximum effort on the glass.

The win was tempered somewhat after 6’7″ A.J. Lawson came down hard on his head/neck/back midway through the first quarter after losing his balance on a breakaway dunk.  Lawson, a key component of coach Dave Smart‘s core 6-7 man rotation, stayed down for a few seconds before getting up by himself but did not return to the game and his status for Thursday’s quarter-final game against Panama (0-3 in Group A) is uncertain.

Canada attacked Chile in transition led by Nembhard and emerging 6’6″ wing Addison Patterson who set the tone early with an attack at the rim trying to hammer home a left handed windmill – the dunk attempt bounced off the back rim – but the stage was set for Canada to dominate in transition.  Patterson, who is two years younger than most players in this tournament, continues to show his ability to slash to the rim and has improved his passing.  The high-potential wing will begin to dominate when he becomes more accountable at the defensive end with more disciplined close-outs and better knowledge of positioning off the ball.  But with progress Patterson is a star in the making.

Canada’s bigs continue to generally struggle with the Bediako brothers especially struggling to defend the ball screen and still growing into the physical  maturity needed to be consistently effective inside at this level.  From this observers perspective, Canada will have to generally play small and with a tight six maybe seven man rotation when games get interesting, likely starting with a semi-final date with Puerto Rico and certainly if Canada advances to the Gold medal game against the deep, athletic and talented U.S.A. squad.

With Nembhard, Miller, Patterson, Lawson (if healthy) and 6’1″ Joel Brown plus 6’8″ Tyrese Samuel, coach Smart has a reasonably solid core but thus far the remainder of the roster has yet to show the skill set to be able to contribute major minutes against top competition.  Expect Canada to start to deploy some zone as the tournament progresses in an effort to shorten games and allow the top guys more minutes (ex-foul trouble Nembhard should be 38-40 minutes a game in the semis and gold medal) and also, given the relative lack of three-point shooting on the roster, to start to encounter some zone.

Canada continues the tournament on Thursday against winless Panama in the quarter-finals with an expected semi-final date vs. Puerto Rico (who plays Chile in the quarters) on Friday.

Nembhard, athletic pressure propel Canada over Argentina

Billed as one of the top high school point guards in North America, 6’3″ Andrew Nembhard did not disappoint, orchestrating Canada’s comfortable 92-75 victory over Argentina as the FIBA Americas U-18 championships kicked off this afternoon before 1,273 fans at the Meridian Center in St. Catharines.

Nembhard, who will enter his freshman season as Florida Gator in the SEC this coming autumn, was Canada’s main (only?) main decision maker on offense this afternoon as Coach Dave Smart kept his half court offense relatively simple, generally allowing the slick, skilled guard from Vaughan to make decisions off the ball screen and Nembhard did not disappoint, finishing with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists including a late dime to 6’8″ Tyrese Samuel for a two handed flush.  Nembhard showed his range out beyond the three point line but as importantly was consistent in the mid-range when pulling up from 15 feet.  Nembhard simply has a wonderful feel for the game, never out of control with his drive and sees the entire floor at a perfect pace.  He will likely have to log 35-40 minutes per game against top opponents in this tournament.

Canada was able to turn Argentina over and get on the offensive glass to establish a double digit lead in the first half but the South American side got the game down closer to their desired pace, running their offense and getting Canadian defenders to run into a series of screens by late in the third quarter, drawing to within 7 at 67-60 with the ball.  But shortly thereafter coach Smart went small and turned up the full court pressure, leading to a 15-5 run to put the game away, again led by some turnovers and mature point guard play from Nembhard.

Argentina was led by 7’0 Francisco Caffaro, a recent commit to Virginia (ACC), who had 22 points (9-15 shooting) and 7 rebounds, completely dominating every Canadian post defender with his ability to seal and establish strong position down low.  Caffaro, who started to take charge in the third quarter against the over matched tandem of Charles and Jaden Bekiako, is a star in the making and combined with 6’2″ Juan Marcos (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists including 6-8 threes) and 6’2″ Francisco Farabello (14 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists).  Argy did get their half court stuff going in the third but generally was over-matched physically by Canada.

6’7″ A.J. Lawson went 3-7 from downtown for Canada, finishing with 18 points in 31 minutes as Canada shot just 5-20 from three.  6’8″ Emanuel Miller was a workhorse on the “o” glass with 5 of Canada’s 20 offensive rebounds and finished with 18 points and 6 boards while wily 6’0″ lefty Joel Brown played his normal blur-quick game, adding 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists while pressuring the ball well.  Long, athletic forward and aforementioned Tyrese Samuel finished with 2 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes showing off his athleticism around the rim at both ends and acting as a solid rim protector.

Promising young 6’6″ wing Addison Patterson, who will also suit up for Canada’s U-16 squad later in June/July, had a vicious tomahawk slam in transition and continues to get comfortable at both ends for Canada (see highlight below).

Canada faces Ecuador tomorrow at 11:30 AM at the Meridian Center.  Chile defeated Ecuador 74-62 earlier today.

Scouting Duke: Trip to Canada

With all five starters either graduating (6’5″ Grayson Allen) or declaring for the NBA Draft (6’10” ACC Player-of-Year/1st Team All-American Marvin Bagley III, 6’6″ sg Gary Trent Jr., 6’10” Wendell Carter Jr. and 6’3″ pg Trevon Duval), Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski will travel to Canada with a virtually revamped front-end of the rotation.

Duke does return 7’0″ senior Antonio Vrankovic (1.0 ppg in 14 games this past season) and a pair of juniors:  6’11” Marques Bolden (3.9 ppg/3.6 rpg in 13 mpg) and 6’10” Javin DeLaurier (3.4 ppg/4.0 rpg in 14 mpg) as their interior players for next season.  As well 6’6″ rising sophomore Alex O’Connell who averaged about 10 mpg and 3.3 ppg is scheduled to return.  All have been reserve players during their Duke careers as Coach K rode his five starters heavily all season:  Bagley, Allen, Trent Jr., Carter Jr. and Duval averaged a collective 161 minutes per game with Carter Jr.’s penchant for foul trouble a factor in giving Bolden and DeLaurier double-digit per game minutes off the bench.

But fear not for the perennial national championship contenders, Blue Devils attracted the U.S.A.’s No. 1 recruiting class, featuring the top three players in the class of 2018, including 6’7″ small forwards R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, 6’6″ power forward Zion Williamson and 6’2″ point guard Tre Jones.

Also peculiar for long-time followers of Coach K’s legendary program is the amount of zone defense deployed recently – especially this past season – by the Devils, potentially a function of a freshman-laden group that struggled to understand (or more to the point – in the AAU era – never were previously taught) the basic tenants of help defense, close-out angles, off-the-ball rotations and, even more simply, ball screen “d”.

Add in a sprinkle of the general lack of perimeter shooting in the contemporary college game compared to era’s past and also possibly the need to shield his starters from foul trouble and a long-time “man or bust” defensive coach – who toiled under legendary man-to-man “d” coach Bobby Knight at Army as a player and at Indiana as an Assistant Coach (one season 1974-75) – transforms into his best Jim Boeheim imitation.

And the problem for traditional die-hards is that it worked ! (if you measure by wins; other measures will be arbitrated next season in the NBA when opponents develop defensive scouting reports around the graduating Duke players).

Long-time college fans identify Duke as a “slap-the-floor, clap-your-hands” pressure man-to-man team since Krzyzewski took over the Blue Devils in 1980 from Bill Foster but Coach K began sprinkling in zone “d” during their National championship run in 2015, even playing a handful of possessions in zone in the national championship game that season against Wisconsin.  But it wasn’t until February of this past season when a “dreadful” defensive performance resulted in an all-night review by the coaching staff and decision to commit to a zone for his freshman-laden group.  And the transition was virtually immediate:  one estimate had Duke playing 95% of their defensive possessions after mid-Feburary in a 2-3 zone:  purists were ignored & Duke became a Syracuse-like zone team !

With another crop of five freshmen coming in expected to see the majority of the minutes – and the Canadian trip their very first action as Duke Blue Devils – it will be interesting from the get-go to witness whether or not Coach K believes this group can take to his traditional man-to-man concepts quickly or, based on last season’s experience, get his group ready to play heavy doses of zone from the start of the season in order to survive.

Our bet here is that in the games in Canada, Coach K comes out in man to gauge how well his kids understand the notions – some of which in a traditional college program can take players a couple or more years to really solidly understand – in any program.  In any case, what Duke does defensively presents an interesting sub-plot to one of the more widely anticipated visits by a U.S. Division 1 program to Canada in the history of the summer tours.

Nation’s Capital trip not in Blue Devils plans

Noticeably absent from the Duke Blue Devils summer trip to Canada is a stop in our Nation’s Capital, home of the perennial National champions Carleton Ravens and contenders Ottawa Gee-Gees.  For more than a decade, Ravens and Gee-Gees have played host to a slew of top NCAA Division 1 teams with the likes of Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Indiana, Cincinnati, Wichita State, Villanova, Memphis, Baylor and Indiana among several others making trips.

Both Carleton and Ottawa have authored victories against highly-rated teams – among others, prior to the 2013-14 season Carleton handily defeated a fully-rostered Wisconsin squad 95-82 that included Frank Kaminsky and Sam Decker among others the season before Badgers advanced to the NCAA championship game and two days later lost in OT to Syracuse.  More recently, Carleton defeated Wichita State and won at Providence last fall.

The Gee-Gees knocked off a Yogi Ferrell-led Indiana squad (a full list of games between U-Sport and NCAA programs can be found at Martin Timmerman’s wonderful site) and have won five of their last seven games against NCAA Division 1 programs.  NCAA program visits to Ottawa continue as Cincinnati Bearcats among others visit our Nation’s Capital this coming summer.

But the Blue Devils have chosen to by-pass Ottawa this summer despite efforts by Carleton to schedule a game, Duke’s schedule will not include either of the Ottawa schools.  Ravens Head Coach Dave Smart:  “Obviously we would love to play Duke.  We would have driven to Montreal to play that game.  I tried to reach out to let them know we would love the opportunity.  Who wouldn’t love to play a program and a coach with such a storied tradition?  If they offered we would be there in a minute.”

After losing their entire starting lineup to graduation and the up-coming NBA draft (we will have a full preview on Duke’s new-look roster shortly), the Blue Devils will welcome the #1 ranked recruiting class in the U.S.A. to Durham, led by 6’7″ Canadian R.J. Barrett, and this young roster will play three games in Canada:  two in Toronto against two-time U-Sport championship game participant Ryerson Rams and U of T Varsity Blues and one in Montreal against three-time defending RSEQ champions McGill Redmen.

Our Blue Devils summer preview to be published momentarily will touch on some of the potential reasons why Duke may not wish to play more veteran, seasoned Canadian university teams in August despite the strong potential that Coach K and company would likely learn a lot about the make-up of their team by doing so.