One of the more disappointing aspects of Canada’s last minute victory over Australia on Thursday was the poor shooting performance of 6’7″ Danilo Djuricic, who missed several opens looks and appeared to lose his swagger toward the end of Canada’s first tournament game, turning down a couple of wide open looks. Consider Thursday’s showing an anomaly as Djuricic, much like he did in Canada’s pre-tournament games when he was the g0-to perimeter player for Canada offensively, came out firing, making his first three 3’s and setting the early tone as Canada dominated Finland 92-68 today with all 12 roster players seeing at least 11 minutes of play. Djuricic did not hesitate off the opening tip, scoring 9 of Canada’s first 16, all on catch-and-shoot 3’s to provide an early gap and ultimately allow Coach Dave DeAveiro to substitute freely as early as the second quarter. Djuricic set the tone as Canada overcame a sluggish shooting effort vs. the Boomers to go a collective 11-25 from downtown today.
6’5″ R.J. Barrett‘s ultra-quick first step and strong finishing capabilities, especially in transition, were also on display today against a physically over-matched but gritty Finnish side that was coming off a grind-it-out win over China. Surprisingly, the Chinese handled Australia 92-70 earlier today in advance of their meeting with Canada tomorrow. It is clear that Barrett has high-end offensive skills with an explosive first step and physical tools around the rim that leave collegiate scouts salivating. Barrett promises to be the next in the growing line of Canadians destined to be Top 10 picks in the N.B.A. draft assuming normal progress but the just-turned-16 year old still has some growth to do with his decision making in transition and on the defensive end. Playing underage in this tournament, he still remains Canada’s feature guy and despite the lopsided loss when Barrett, 6’9″ Simi Shittu, 6’3″ Andrew Nembhard and Djuricic were not on the floor, Canada scrambled at times but outclassed the Finns when they were.
Canada also has a rising star in 6’7″ Emmanuel Akot, who is very long with a giant wingspan and tremendous open court skills getting to the rim in transition. Akot also knocked down a pair of perimeter 3’s early when it was still a game and appears to be gaining the confidence of the staff to move up the rotation ladder. Today, DeAveiro chose program newcomer 6’4″ Quincy Guerrier to be first off the bench and the Montreal native knocked down a 3 on his first possession, helping Canada gain a double digit lead at 22-11 which was never challenged. Behind Djuricic’s shooting, Nembhard’s distribution and a pressure-filled “d” that created turnovers, Canada jumped out to a 13-4 lead before some questionable transition decisions by aforementioned Barrett and the Finns ability to solve Canada’s full court pressure brought the game back to 13-11. But Djuricic played pick-and-pop with Nembhard, making no mistake on long 3 from the right wing and later Barrett showed his incredible open court skills with a driving and-1 in transition and Canada was in its way. Barrett had 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes as the Canadians built leads as large as 30.
Finland was led by an intriguing 6’4″ wing prospect Elias Valtonen, who had 10 first quarter points, showing an array of offensive skills getting to the rim, creating for himself and even a slick step-back 3 that got it to 13-11 early before Canada exploded. Valtonen however was quiet after that finishing with just 12 points. Still, he remains a solid prospect who appears to have a Division 1 skill set tucked into his solid body.
Canada now sits alone atop Group C with a 2-0 record in advance of tomorrow’s showdown with China (1-1) after the Chinese shocked some with an easy 90-72 win over Australia earlier today. Game time tomorrow is 12:45 PM ET.