Canada’s men’s basketball entry at the 29th FISU Summer Universiade in Taiwan is gaining some further clarity as an initial 12-man roster was officially announced by U Sports earlier today, led by five U Sports All-Canadians from this past season including Moser Award winner 6’4″ Connor Wood from Carleton. Head Coach Kevin Hanson also will have the services of his UBC 1st Team All-Canadian 6’9″ Conor Morgan plus 6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane (Carleton), 6’7″ Kevin Bercy (St. FX) and 6’1″ UNB guard Javon Masters. Former All-Canadian 6’6″ Jordan Jensen-Whyte, just graduated from UBC, was also named and provides a stellar, athletic wing who can defend and get to the rim in transition.
Other notable wings on this roster include 6’4″ Justus Alleyne (Manitoba), another great defender, and bolstering the front line will be 6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles (uOttawa) and 6’10” Erik Nissen from Acadia. Former RSEQ Player-of-the-Year Alexandre Leclerc, who suffered through an injury plagued season with an ankle injury, looks to regain his All-Canadian form as wing/big guard while a pair of Calgary Dinos: 6’5″ Mambi Diawara and 5’11” David Kapinga bring their big-game experience from back-to-back appearances at the U-Sports Final 8.
Noted absences from the roster include uOttawa’s Defensive Player-of-the-Year and 2nd Team All-Canadian Caleb Agada, unavailable because the graduated star is likely to be with a pro team by the time the tournament begins in August, Ryerson’s 1st Team All-Canadian Adika Peter-McNeilly, likely to be part of other Canadian national team activities and RSEQ Player-of-the-Year 6’2″ Dele Ogundokun (McGill), who has committed to a summer internship associated with his degree in Economics. UPEI’s dynamic past All-Canadian Tyler Scott was also among those strongly considered for this roster but unfortunately finances played a roll in his inability to participate. Another somewhat obvious omission is Ryerson’s All-Canadian candidate 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa.
At first glance, the roster looks to be strong up front with Morgan, Pierre-Charles and Nissen with Bercy as a very good four man. Guard play is always key and with Wood, Kajami-Keane, Masters and Kapinga, there is a combination of athleticism, transition talent and perimeter shooting, although it does appear that the roster may not be as deep with shooters as is usually required for success in international play.
While this is the present 12-man roster, Hanson expects to have some reserves ready and/or on hand, especially given that the graduated players, including Wood, Kajami-Keane and Jensen-Whyte could end up with European contracts and thus have late-August obligations that could preclude their participation. The possible departures to Europe of the graduated players, especially if Wood and Kajami-Keane are not available, would further impair Canada’s perimeter shooting and put added pressure on the staff to find more perimeter shooting.
Given the timing of the event, there could still be more roster churn – in the end, Canada may not know exactly who is on the roster until the doors close on the airplane for the flight to Taiwan. For Hanson and staff, who have taken time out of their summers – for the UBC coach he will miss his team’s trip to Costa Rica – the potential roster churn, financial situation and short training camp all add up to another example of the challenges of coaching in Canada. Despite that, expect another strong performance from our boys.