The summer of 2018 promises to be a busy period for Canada’s National men’s team program with three groups hitting the spotlight fresh off the news that Canada is the #2 program in the FIBA Youth Men World Rankings as of early May, 2018.
Action begins later this month in Ottawa as our U-18 National team starts camp at Carleton University in preparation for the eight-team FIBA Americas world championship qualifying tournament to be held at the Meridian Center in St. Catharines beginning 10th June. Head Coach Dave Smart (Carleton) will lead the coaching staff which includes Chris Cheng (Nipissing) and Jamie McNeilly, a long-time National program assistant who is a member of the Virginia Tech staff under Buzz Williams. National team program veteran Michael Meeks will also work on the staff.
The 8 team FIBA Americas U18 qualifier tournament begins on 10th June with Canada slated in Group B with Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. Group A consists of USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Panama. Canada’s first game is Sunday, June 10th at 2:15 PM ET against Argentina. Group A preliminary actions continues the following day Monday, June 11th as Canada meets Ecuador before closing the opening round on Tuesday, June 12th vs. Chile.
Quarter-finals are on Thursday, June 14th followed by semi-final on 15th and the Gold medal and Bronze medal games on Saturday, June 16th.
Followers are likely to recall that last summer, Canada qualified for the U-17 World Championships in Argentina with a silver medal at the FIBA Americas qualifier. Last summer’s team, led by UVic’s Craig Beaucamp and assisted by Rob Smart Jr. (Carleton) and Patrick Tatham (McMaster), went a tidy 4-1, losing only to the USA in the gold medal game.
This summer’s U-17 team will be led by Manitoba’s Kirby Schepp with Tatham and newly-crowned U-Sports National championship Head Coach Dan Vanhooren (Calgary) part of Schepp’s staff. The team is likely to return the core of their silver medal group from last summer led by 6’5″ Cashius McNeilly – son of U-19 Assistant Coach Jay McNeilly – 5’10” Shemar Rathan-Mayes (brother of National team and NBA prospect Xavier Rathan-Mayes), 6’1″ Taryn Todd, 6’4″ Luka Sakota, 6’6″ Malachi Ndur, 6’6″ Paris Shand (son of former Humber Hawk and Canadian National team player Kevin Shand) and 6’7″ Ben Kirkke. 6’6″ Addison Patterson who has zoomed up the charts in the class of 2020 rankings is among others also likely to be considered as a candidate for this group.
U-17’s gather in Toronto between June 10th and 17th for their camp and final team selection before heading to Mexico to represent Canada at the “Basketball Without Borders” event. The FIBA U-17 World Championships, a 16 team event, begin on 30th June in Argentina with Canada slated in Group C with Montenegro, Egypt and New Zealand. Canada’s first game is Saturday, June 30th against Montenegro in Rosario followed by matches against Egypt on Canada Day Sunday, July 1st and New Zealand on Tuesday, July 3rd.
Finally, Canada’s Senior Men’s National team has a pair of qualifying games on friendly soil this summer, continuing Group D action. Canada currently sits at 3-1 with home games slated this early summer for Friday, June 29th in Toronto at the Ricoh Center against Dominican Republic and Monday, July 2nd in Ottawa at TD Place (Lansdowne Park) against U.S. Virgin Islands. Recall Canada defeated U.S. Virgin Islands 118-89 in an earlier matchup.
Recall that Dominican Republic won the first game over Canada with a relatively easy 88-76 at home in the Dominican before a large, raucous crowd in Santiago as DR shot 49% from the floor, took a 14 point lead into halftime and got a game-high 25 points from 6’3″ Rigoberto Mendoza, a veteran of the DR pro league, including 4-6 from three to win comfortably. 6’3″ Phil Scrubb had 22 to lead Canada. Expect a potentially even more formidable lineup for DR this summer including the possibility that rising 7’0″ star Karl Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves could suit up. Note also that 6’9″ Boston Celtics star Al Horford and 6’7″ Luis Montero (waived by Detroit this past season and a D-League vet) are other possibilities in DR’s line-up.
U.S. Virgin Islands was most recently coached by ex-Raptors Head Coach Sam Mitchell with a roster dotted with several low-to-mid NCAA D1 veterans.
Many expect Canada to field a formidable lineup with several NBA players likely to suit up this summer. Although no formal announcements have been made, 6’10” Kelly Olynyk (Miami), 6’2″ Cory Joseph (Indiana), 6’9″ Tristan Thompson (Cleveland), 6’5″ Jamal Murray (Denver), 6’9″ Dwight Powell (Dallas), 6’9″ Khem Birch (Orlando), 6’1″ Tyler Ennis (L.A. Lakers) and 6’6″ Dillon Brooks (Memphis) are among the many players who have generally been loyal to the Canadian program over the years. 6’7″ R.J. Barrett, a potential generational talent who led Canada to the FIBA U-19 World Championship in Egypt last summer – Canada’s first Gold medal in a major FIBA competition – begins what is expected to be a “one-and-done” college season at Duke University with a likely trip to Canada in August with the program planned, which may preclude Barrett’s participation at any level for Canada this summer.
Unconfirmed, informal reports have several of the big name veterans of the program energized to play including Birch who says: “I want to wear the Canadian jersey this summer !”
Another loyal Canadian is 6’6″ Melvin Ejim, a long-time glue guy with the program who is also anxious to represent this summer in front of the home crowds.
6’9″ Trey Lyles had a strong season at Denver but has not as of yet ever suited up for Canada’s Senior team and it has been three summers and counting since 6’8″ Andrew Wiggins played for Canada (2015 FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament).
Still in some apparent flux is the Head Coach situation for this summer. German pro league mentor Gordie Herbert and Ryerson Head man Roy Rana have taken turns coaching Canada over the past 12 months and it appears that long-time coach Jay Triano, who completed this past season as interim coach in Phoenix with the Suns, remains available after not being chosen as the Suns next Head Coach.
Regardless of who shows up and/or who is coaching, Canada has an opportunity to field a much better team than the #23 standing our country currently has in the latest FIBA Men’s rankings.