The evolution of Canada’s progress on the global basketball stage can be traced back to today’s core group of NBA players and their collective success going back to their early teen years. Indeed, well before they became household NBA and college names, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and others blazed a new trail in how Canadians were viewed after successful stints in AAU basketball and internationally playing for Canada. The latest crop of young Canadian talent has spent the past few days working through a try-out camp in Toronto and Canada Basketball will officially announce tomorrow the group that will compete in the 2016 U17 FIBA World Championships held in Zaragonza, Spain from June 23rd to July 3rd. This team, under long-time Head Coach Dave DeAveiro (McGill) was a few minutes away from capturing Canada’s first international gold medal in many years, leading the USA in the Gold medal game at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 before giving up the lead late and settling for silver, finishing with a 4-1 record. Another CIS Head Coach, James Derouin, is one of DeAveiro’s assistants. Expect Canada Basketball to name the same core group that, although currently classified as #26 in the FIBA world rankings, is generally regarded as one of the favorites to reach the podium, given last summer’s comfortable win over host Argentina and the late, tight loss to the USA in a game where the score certainly did not reflect how the game went – Canada led comfortably early in the fourth quarter.
The most prominent member of Canada’s group is 6’5″ Rowan Barrett Jr., son of former National team star and current GM Rowan Barrett. R.J., a lefty, has the complete offensive skill set and had a tremendous freshman season at Montverde Academy in Florida this past season; some U.S. scouting services rank him as the #1 freshman in America. R.J., playing as an underager last season at the FIBA Americas, did not produce a dominant effort in last summer’s gold medal game so expect him to take charge this summer. Setting the table for Canada is 6’2″ point guard Andrew Nembhard from traditional high school power Vaughan S.S., Wiggins alma mater. Nembhard is rated highly among prep prognosticators and is scheduled to join R.J. at Montverde this September. 6’8″ power forward Simu Shittu (Burlington, ON) another Montverde kid who is ranked in the Top 10 in his high school class, was arguably Canada’s best player down the stretch last summer including for much of the U.S.A. game. Shittu was not part of the original invite list but has re-join his mates and should log plenty of time up front. Glue three man 6’5″ Noah Kirkwood (Ottawa Ashbury), son of former Toronto Jarvis & uOttawa Gee-Gees star Arthur Kirkwood, is also likely to start. 6’6″ Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis (Oakville) is nursing an ankle injury but should be ready for Spain. Another key cog from last summer was 6’7″ Danilo Djuricic (Toronto St. Michael’s/Brampton, ON) stretches the floor with his 3 point shooting. Canada will be without a key bench contributor from last season as 6’1″ combo guard Marcus Carr is injured but with 6’0″ PG Stefan Smith (Bill Crothers) and 5’10” Daniel Sackey, one of the bigger surprises of camp, Canada should be in good hands when Nembhard gets a blow. Smith already is a superior scorer and Sackey, who transfer from Winnipeg’s Kelvin Clippers and reclassified as a sophomore at St. Louis (Mo.) Christian where he started, is described by some as a bolt of lightning given his quickness off the bounce. Another likely newcomer is 6’5″ Quincy Garrier (Thetford, Quebec Prep), originally from Montreal, who has also pleasantly surprised observers at camp this week. 6’9″ Grant Shepherd (Kelowna, B.C.) has a chance to become a big time forward and should also make the roster. Other likely inclusions to the roster are 6’8″ Jaden Bediako (Brampton) who came off the bench last summer and another Winnipeg product 6’6″ Emmanuel Akot (Kildonan East).
The team leaves for France this coming weekend to prepare for a three-game tournament in Toulouse in the south western part of France before heading over the southern border into Spain for the U17 Worlds in Zaragoza, comfortably over the French border in the Northeast part of Spain, in land due west of Barcelona. In the pre-tournament affair in Toulouse, Canada will play France, Australia – Canada’s first opponent for keeps in Spain – and Argentina, a team Canada defeated comfortably right in Argentina in the FIBA Americas semi-final last summer. For the FIBA U17’s in Spain, Canada is slotted in Group C and starts their tournament with a 23rd June affair against Australia. After a day off, Canada finishes their group play against Finland (25th June) and China (26th June). All 16 teams in the tournament (there are 4 four-team groups) qualify for the “Round of 16” with Group C crossing over with Group D which includes France, Korea, Dominican Republic and Boznia & Herzegovina. The sudden-death Round of 16 will be played on Tuesday June 28th. Quarter-finals are two days later on 30th June with championship game on Sunday, July 3rd. All games should be available on FIBA.TV and will provides observers with a view of next generation of Canadian talent, many of which could put Canada on an even higher-profile podium in the coming decade.
Go Canada !