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Canada Basketball Has Arrived With A Star-Studded Roster Ahead of the Olympics



Canada Basketball Has Arrived With A Star-Studded Roster Ahead of the Olympics

Canadian basketball has grown up.

Two years ago, the Canadian senior men’s national team asked its players to make a commitment. A loss to the Czech Republic had ended their Olympic hopes for Tokyo and the organization decided it needed to make a change.

“We determined we need to have continuity and cohesion within our teams,” Rowan Barrett, general manager and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program, said at the time. “We have talented teams, we have talented players. But we need them somehow to be together.”

The organization had 14 players commit to join the so-called “Summer Core.” What exactly that meant has never been entirely clear. Only 12 players can make the Olympic roster and therefore cuts have always been inevitable. And yet, then-head coach Nick Nurse insisted those who committed in 2022 would have a spot waiting for them down the road.

But the plan worked.

Of the 14 players who committed to joining the core, 10 played at the FIBA World Cup last summer where Canada clinched its first medal at the tournament. It was the most successful finish for the Canadian senior men’s national team in a worldwide tournament since basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936.

Now Canada is trying to take it to another level.

There are no guarantees for anyone anymore. None of the 20 players invited to training camp will be guaranteed spots on the Olympic team this summer. It’ll be a battle for the final 12 Olympic roster spots and showing up for past events isn’t going to guarantee you anything.

“We are going to this competition in Paris to win. That’s our plan,” Barrett said as the organization announced its training camp roster Wednesday. “As a result of that, we have to create the strongest possible roster that we could to get that job done.”

Canada will have no shortage of talent to choose from.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Andrew Wiggins, Andrew Nembhard, and Luguentz Dort headline quite possibly the most impressive group of Canadian talent the organization has ever put together. It’s a group loaded with depth in NBA talent in the backcourt and on the wings with centers Kelly Olynyk, Trey Lyles, Dwight Powell, and collegiate star Zach Edey looking to provide backcourt strength. Save for the United States who will enter the Olympics as heavy favorites, there’s nobody else fielding a roster with as much talent as Canada.

But alone talent only goes so far on the international stage.

If Canada has a weakness, it’s in the frontcourt where a lack of size and strength has created defensive problems for the country in FIBA competition. Offensively there are no issues, but defensively Canada has had holes.

“We believe in order to climb those last few steps we’ve got to get stronger defensively,” Barrett said. “So we’re looking specifically at that area as we’re adding players to the group.”

Canada will be watching the last-chance qualifiers too to tweak the roster accordingly with two to-be-determined spots up for grabs in their Olympic group. Australia and Canada will be joined by the winner of the Greek and Spanish tournaments with Latvia and Greece considered the favorites to advance.

After that, the plan is to finalize the roster ahead of the team’s exhibition game against the United States in Las Vegas on July 10. Based on the current roster, eight players will be cut excluding Shaedon Sharpe and Bennedict Mathurin who will join the team for training camp but will not be competition for roster spots. That means at least one NBA player including Edey will not crack the top 12 for Canada and potentially more if the seven non-NBA players can impress at camp.

This is what Canada had been building toward.

For so long, it’d been a stretch to fill a roster with NBA-level talent let alone get the country’s best to show up on a regular basis. Now Canada has arrived and there won’t be handouts to qualify for Paris.

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