Busting of the gate with a 15-0 run, Canada completed the Group portion of play at the FIBA U-17 World’s with a dominant 105-54 pasting of China. With the victory, the Canadians are champions of Group C and move on to the Round-of-16 for a likely date with Dominican Republic. As he did yesterday against Finland, 6’7″ Danilo Djuricic set the tone early with a three and a pair of sweet mid-range jumpers after beating Chinese close-outs. 6’7″ Iggy Brazdeikis also got off to a strong start with a fine take to the rim and a 3 as Canada led by 20 early and extended to 40+ midway through the third quarter. Defensively, Canada was stellar guarding the ball – rarely requiring the need for rotations – and did a great job on the defensive glass limiting the Chinese, who had at least two long, tall centers, to one shot for the most part.
Of course Canada’s two upper echelon stars 6’5″ R.J. Barrett and 6’9″ Simi Shittu got in on the action with Barrett barreling down the lane for a vicious one-handed slam while getting fouled and Shittu dominating the offensive glass and wreaking his usual havoc defensively. Coach Dave DeAveiro brought 6’4″ Noah Kirkwood off the bench as the first sub in an effort to reinstill some confidence into the swing man’s game. Recall last summer Kirkwood was a usual starter for this program and contributed great ball “d”, rebounding, taking charges with the occasional finish as one of Canada’s more underrated players. Kirkwood has had a slow start in this summer’s campaign but after today’s effort, when he guarded well, had a block and generally was active, expect more from the Ottawa native. Still, Kirkwood appears tentative at the offensive end however it is a long tournament and there are still several heroes to be ordained going forward.
6’7″ Emmanuel Akot continues to impress off the bench with his offensive skills, athletic ability and energy. Akot had another slick catch-and-shoot 3 in transition and finished one of about 10 Canadian dunks with a one-handed hammer that got the Canadian bench up.
If there is anything that may be worrisome for DeAveiro and staff, it could be the fairly noticeable drop-off after the first 8. After Canada led 28-8, China reeled off a 9-0 run bridging the first and second quarters, primarily against DeAveiro’s bench. After reinserting the starters, Canada pulled away to lead by 20+ quickly however in a better game, Canada’s bench could be exposed.
Canada next plays on Tuesday (site/time to be announced) more than likely against the Dominican Republic, a team which the Canadians handled easily last summer. Assuming Canada can take care of business against DR, the winner of Turkey/Mali awaits on Thursday, giving Canada a day to prepare for what will be a challenging quarter-final. Not to look too far ahead but Spain could await in the semi-finals next Friday (no off-day to prepare).
This group is starting to come together on the defensive end and on the glass – today’s effort was as complete and sound as Canada has played thus far this summer as the two late arrivals Barrett and Shittu continue to get acclimated to the way Canada wants to play.