In another “Venezuela-esque” disappointment for our national basketball program, Turkey used a dominant effort on the glass and generally showed a much higher overall compete level and passion to defeat Canada 80-74 this morning in Spain at the U-17 World Championships. With the loss, Canada can finish no higher than 5th spot. The Turks had numerous second-chances with 23 offensive rebounds, out-rebounding Canada 67-40. More than that, Turkey seemed to get every 50/50 ball and showed much more emotion, despite having to come back from a fourth quarter deficit.
Turkey’s 6’9″ center Ahmet Duran dominated his match-up with Canada’s 6’9″ Simi Shittu as the burly center finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Shittu shot just 1 for 11 and had only 7 boards. But the real difference maker for Turkey was unheralded 6’11” Ragip Atar, who scorched Canada for 28 points and 15 rebounds including 7 offensive rebounds, many of which were momentum changing after stellar Canadian half-court “d” produced late shot clock attempts created rebounds that Canada collectively simply got out-competed on.
Canada’s 6’7″ wing Danilo Djuricic came out of the gate strong offensively with 14 first-half points but finished with just 19 – hitting 5 of his 8 threes as Canada shot just 10 for 29 from downtown. 6’5″ R.J. Barrett did finish with 33 points to lead all scorers but was just 10 for 19 from the foul line, part of a terrible 14 for 28 foul line effort for Canada. Barrett had only 2 rebounds in the entire game. Canada also struggled to finish around the rim, missing at least a dozen wide-open layups – my guess is that Shittu’s 10 misses all came within 4 feet of the rim – and this lack of finishing also strongly contributed to the loss.
This was another wholly disappointing result for Canadian basketball and is in my opinion indicative of the comparative lack of passion for team and country our players generally have exhibited throughout the years, where in most cases the higher profile players tend to be more conscious of self rather than team. This showed today against an energetic, fiery Turkish side willing to do almost anything for their flag. Too many times today when facing adversity and a big offensive possession required finding the right shot, things broke down into a 1-on-everyone scenario and the decisiveness with which the less athletic but harder-playing Turks won the battles for loose balls and rebounds are a testament to their emotional, mental and thus physical dominance.
Focus now turns to the Senior men’s team who appear to have assembled a group of dedicated participants who thus far have showed a commitment to defending and rebounding and an unselfishness offensively that could lead to some surprises in Manila, where many are forecasting a Turkey/France championship final. One thing I am comfortable predicting is that this group will play hard with team at the forefront and that we’ve seen the last of a senior men’s team with a so-called star holding his shorts for an entire defensive possession or same “star” getting a rebound ripped out of his hands and watching the opponent make a lay-up without any response. Go Canada !