According to torontosun.com, Canada’s senior men’s basketball team is feeling confident, relaxed and, maybe most importantly, healthy heading into a pivotal few weeks of competition.
The team closed out its training camp in Toronto on Saturday and will head off to Brazil for a three-game warmup next week before the FIBA Americas tournament kicks off in Argentina on August 30 .
The top two teams at the FIBA Americas automatically qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, while teams 3-5 advance to a last-chance qualifier next year.
Canada has just concluded its second phase of camp in Toronto and will meet Brazil on Wednesday at the Tuto Marchand Cup opener.
Games against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will follow.
Team Canada will start the FIBA Americas against Spurs’ Tiago Splitter and Team Brazil on August 31.
Levon Kendall, who recently suited up for Canada, said spirits are high with the group ahead of its journey to South America.
“(Camp) has been really good, we had a little bit of an up-and-down exhibition tour (the team dropped five-of-six friendlies in Europe before beating Belgium twice in Canada), we were missing some guys, some guys were hurt so it was a little bit discouraging,” Kendall said.
“But it was really good to come back into camp with the guys healthy … the guys are pretty optimistic and we’ve made some promising strides.”
Former Toronto high school and University of Connecticut star Denham Brown added that the team has been able to come together.
“Team chemistry is great, guys are spending a lot of time with each other off the court and in return that’s making us a lot more comfortable on the court,” Brown said.
“That helps us trust each other and play together.”
Both Kendall and Brown emphasized how much the games in Brazil will help Canada prepare for the Olympic qualifying the next week.
“We’ll be able to warm up and get rid of all the rust,” Brown said.
“A lot of the turnovers are because we have trouble with handling the ball, guys are passing up shots, this will help us get into a better chemistry, better rhythm going into the tournament.”
Added Kendall, the former Pittsburgh Panther who now plays in Spain: “We’ve strung together a number of good practices in a row, but you can only simulate so much in practice.
“It’s going to be tough, we’re playing against the main competitors, but it’s always a good opportunity to see where you’re at.”
Kendall said he was pleased with the way San Antonio Spurs first round pick Cory Joseph has handled himself since joining the team — and not just in terms of adapting to the increased physicality.
“I’ve been most impressed with his attitude, not having a sense of entitlement (from being a first round selection),” Kendall said of the Pickering native, who turned 20 on Saturday.
“He understands guys have been here (a while), he’s got to prove himself before he gets that respect. He has to earn it to a certain extent so that’s what I’ve been most surprised (about). It’s nice to see that.”
Canada is trying to avoid missing three straight Olympics for the first time.
The team made the world championships last year for the first time since 2002 in part by defeating the favored Dominican Republic at the last FIBA Americas tournament.
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