Senior Team Thoughts

For die-hard Canada Basketball fans, the last week or so has been a major disappointment with so many NBA stars not available due to contract issues (Andrew Nicholson, Dwight Powell) or having contracts and choosing not to play to focus on next season (Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Trey Lyles).  Still others who are without contracts and are very likely without any real NBA offers (Robert Sacre, Anthony Bennett) thought better of participating.  Two others from last season’s team, Kelly Olynyk and Aaron Doornekamp are dealing with injuries, leaving just 4 players (Cory Joseph, Phil Scrubb, Brady Heslip and Melvin Ejim) returning.  Thus at least 8 spots are available for new faces and after two days of practice in Toronto, some interesting possibilities exist.  6’9″ Joel Anthony, one of the most loyal Canadian ballers in the history of Canada Basketball, returns and is likely to log major minutes up front.  At a minimum, the 33-year old Montreal native who played very sparingly this past season for the Detroit Pistons, can defend many or all of the bigs Canada is expected to battle in Manila, beginning with Turkey and their 7’0″ center Omer Asik who averaged 4.0 ppg/6.1 rpg in about 17 minutes for the 30-52 New Orleans Pelicans this past season.  The next day, Anthony will likely match up with Senegal’s 6’11” Georgei Dieng, the star of Louisville’s 2013 NCAA championship team and just finishing his second season with the Minnesota Timberwolves (29-53).  Dieng played virtually every minute of every game for Senegal in the Afrobasket qualifing tournament last summer.  Of course, Canadian fans are subconsciously hoping that GSW wins quickly so it will give more time for 6’11” Tristan Thompson to attend.  If that doesn’t happen then 7’5″ Sim Bhullar (Raptors 905) could stick as the back-up after some encouraging minutes at last season’s Pan-Ams.  Montreal’s 6’10” Chris Boucher (starter at Oregon) is a crazy athlete who can defend the rim – he led the entire Pac-12 in blocks this past season – with his offense and general skill set still catching up, although Boucher can knock down open 3’s with some consistency.  Two veteran NCAA wings appear set to compete for roster spots as 6’6″ Dyshawn Pierre (Dayton) who just completed his fourth season for the perennial NCAA tournament bound Flyers and 6’4″ Naz Long, who was recently granted another year of eligibility after suffering a hip injury eight games into his senior season in ’15-’16 at Iowa State with the Cyclones.  Pierre has plenty of big game experience and Long can shoot it.  Also at the 3 spot is Carleton’s 6’7″ Thomas Scrubb who has the length and smarts to defend on the wing and has matured physically after his first professional season in Finland that resulted in a league championship.  Scrubb is scheduled to play in the German first division next season.  Boucher’s teammate at Oregon, 6’7″ Dillon Brooks produced some valuable minutes during last summer’s Pan-Am team campaign which preceded Mexico FIBA Americas tournament – Brooks will return to the Ducks next season after helping his club to the Elite Eight last season, choosing not to enter the NBA Draft.  6’5″ Corey Johnson has been a stalward for Canada’s junior teams throughout his high school career and the slick shooting wing/guard from Ottawa just completed a successful freshman season at Harvard under Tommy Amaker.  CIS fans are likely hoping that 6’6″ Tyson Hinz (Carleton/Dutch Pro league) and 6’10” Owen Klassen (Acadia/German Pro league) are able to stick.  Recall also that two high school guys 6’6″ RJ Barrett and 6’4″ Shai Alexander (Hamilton) were also invited to camp.  Both are also eligible to play for Canada in other tournaments:  Barrett with U-17 team competing in the FIBA World championships in Spain beginning mid-this-month and Alexander with Roy Rana‘s U-18 team competing at the FIBA Americas tournament in mid-July in Chile.


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