The Canadian national team opened up the second phase of their FIBA Americas Olympic qualifier preparation in a rare showcase held at their home country.
In two exhibition games against the Belgium national team held last August 13-14 at Ryerson University in Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Team Canada reassured concerned fans that the early struggles were just a part of the process, winning both games.
It’s an indication that Team Canada is determined to get better as the Olympic qualifiers approaches.
“Nothing matters until August 31 and every single day we’re just trying to get there,” said Leo Rautins, national team head coach following the team’s game at Ryerson.
“Our goal as a team is to just get better every single day, clean up the mistakes and find ways to improve.”
“If we’re going to win games at all we have to be good at the defensive end,” said Rautins. “We can’t relax – we’re not a team that can relax – we have to play with a high level of intensity all the time and I think we have some players at every position that can be good defensively, they can be quick, and they can do a lot of different things.”
But with a few late additions namely San Antonio Spurs rookie Cory Joseph, Carl English, Alex Hartman and Miami Heat center Joel Anthony should make the team better.
Joseph in particular will add depth to Canada’s point guard rotation and improve their perimeter defense. He will probably compete against Jermaine Anderson for starting point guard spot, while Anthony will bolster Team Canada’s interior defense with his shot blocking ability.
During his limited time to assimilate to the team, Joseph exemplified his dedication to the Canadian national team.
“We got back from Europe and Jevohn Shepherd, Denham Brown, Jermaine Andersen and Jeff Ferguson got in the gym with Cory and when we got into practice last night he knew three quarters of our plays already which is a huge thing. It just tells you the nature of this group they just care about winning,” said Rautins.
In his first action suiting up for the senior squad, the young former Texas Longhorn recently selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Spurs showed flashes of what he can bring to the squad – pushing the tempo, running the offense with veteran savvy, all while playing his renowned tenacious D – but alluded to the fact there’s always room for improvement.
“It can get better. I’m a guy’s that’s hard on myself and I feel like we can be more fluid, be better in defensive rotations and better offensive execution,” said Joseph.
With three exhibition games scheduled a week prior to the tournament against some notable South American competition in Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Canada will get a last chance to experiment with different lineups and iron out any wrinkles just before the qualifier, with their roster finally intact.