Explain why it matters to Canada

It’s a weekend of new beginnings for Canada Basketball.

Not only does Sunday represent the first game of the new partnership between Canada Basketball and Sportsnet, but it’s also the start of the FIBA ​​World Cup 2023 qualifying cycle for the Senior Men’s National Team.

The road to this event is a long one, with multiple qualifying stages – and a separate tournament right in the middle of qualifying – and the uncertainty surrounding in-season qualifying windows means there’s significant pressure to win when you have a good turnout. Canada certainly have that for a pair of games with the Bahamas, and with records and point differentials carried over to subsequent rounds, this is a great opportunity to kick off and lay the groundwork for a 2023 World Cup which, hopefully will be more successful than the last four. .

Games

Canada will play two games against the Bahamas to open the qualifying window.

Originally, the format would have called for these teams to play each other once in each of their homes, but the pandemic has upended that approach. In fact, not only will they not be hosting each other, but both matches will be played at a neutral venue in the Dominican Republic.

These matches take place on Sunday, November 28 at 4 p.m. ET and Monday, November 29 at 4 p.m. ET.

Broadcast

As announced last week, Sportsnet is now the exclusive site for FIBA ​​events in Canada, starting with these qualifiers and continuing through the fall of 2025.

That means all those qualifiers, the eventual World Cup, all the junior-level tournaments, the women’s quest for a World Cup spot in early 2022. All of that can be found on Sportsnet for the next four years.

This week’s matches will have Dan Shulman and former National Team forward Jevohn Shepherd on the call, while Senior Women’s National Team player Natalie Achonwa will join Danielle Michaud and Michael Grange for an analysis. studio.

(It’s unclear if Grange will be sunbathing or wearing bronzer to try and match the 29-degree temperatures in Santo Domingo.)

Qualifying Format

The qualification procedure for the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup 2023 is a bit complicated to follow. There will be 80 teams competing in their respective regions to earn one of 30 berths for the 2023 World Cup. Japan and the Philippines already have berths in the 32-team tournament as co-hosts (along with the Indonesia, who have yet to qualify).

The Americas region (where Canada competes) will eventually send seven teams to the World Cup.

For the first stage of qualifying, Canada is in Group C with the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands. They will play a total of six window matches in November (against the Bahamas in the Dominican Republic), February (against the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands at a location to be determined) and July (also against the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands at a location to be determined).

To move on, Canada must finish in the top three of its group.

From there, they will merge with the top three teams from Group A (Argentina, Venezuela, Panama and Paraguay) to form Group E for the second leg. They will then play the Group A teams twice each on windows in August, November and February 2023. The records from the first leg will stand.

The top three teams from each stage two group, along with the top fourth-place team, will then qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

Canada placed 21st at the 2019 World Cup in China after failing to qualify in 2014. Their best ever result is sixth at the World Championships (1978 and 1982), but they have finished 13th (2002) since the start of the millennium.

The World Cup is a massive tournament in its own right and carries added importance as qualification for the 2024 Olympics. Seven teams will punch their ticket to the 2024 matches in Paris via the World Cup. Canadian fans know all too well what’s to come for the remaining teams: last-ditch Olympic qualifying tournaments.

And as an added layer of confusion, there’s also the FIBA ​​AmeriCup 2022, which takes place in Brazil in September.

Canada have already qualified for this event, and while a good placing is always valuable to the program, it is not a direct source for the 2023 World Cup. Canada placed a disappointing eighth in the 2017 AmeriCup after winning bronze – and nearly qualifying for the Olympics – in 2015.

Notes on the list

The current FIBA ​​World Cup qualification process requires a program like Canada to rely heavily on talent. While Canada is producing NBA and EuroLeague caliber talent at an increasing rate is a sign of incredible growth, players from these leagues have generally not been released for in-season qualifying windows.

To qualify for the 2019 World Cup, Canada used 35 different players. This will likely still be the case for the next couple of years, with most qualifying windows occurring in-season. Players from non-EuroLeague international clubs will make up the bulk of the squad.

The 15 players Canada brought to Houston for training camp ahead of their tip in the Dominican Republic are:

There should be a few familiar names here. Phil and Thomas Scrubb, Kyle Wiltjer, Kassius Robertson, Anthony Bennett and Owen Klassen are long time participants in the program and bring a level of experience and familiarity that is needed in such a short event. Junior Cadougan also injects over a decade of experience into the band.

Kenny Chery, Phil Scrubb’s teammate with Avtodor, will make his national team debut, something that has felt like a brewing inevitability in recent years. Kyle Alexander brings an inside presence for a team that has often been thin inside, Aaron Best is a beloved two-way Swiss army knife, Kadre Gray can score quickly if needed and AJ Lawson also brings some program experience and defensive versatility. . JV Mukama, Kalif Young and Jermaine Haley provide new faces at the end of the rotation.

It’s hard to predict what a rotation will look like given the rapid acclimatization needed here, but the Scrubbs, Chery, Robertson, Best, Wilter, Bennett, Alexander, Klassen look likely to form the core. (I would personally start Chery, the Scrubbs, Wiltjer and Alexander, but again, that comes down to acclimatization time.)

Some notable absences here other than the NBA, NCAA and G League groups are Kaza Kajami-Keane and Trae Bell-Haynes (injured/ill), Tyler Ennis (recently returned), Dylan Ennis, Naz Mitrou-Long, Olivier Hanlan and EuroLeaguers Marial Shayok and Dyshawn Pierre.

Coaches

Toronto Raptors assistant coaches Nate Bjorkgren and Nathaniel Mitchell will coach the men for this window and have been away from the Raptors this week to help the team prepare in Houston, Texas.

A longtime collaborator of Nick Nurse and recent head coach of the Indiana Pacers, Bjorkgren has been part of the Canada Basketball program since Nurse joined the group in 2019. Mitchell, meanwhile, has been part of the program in an official capacity since 2016 around stints with the Maine Red Claws, Raptors 905, Charlotte Hornets and now the Raptors. He is also a favorite off-season training instructor for a number of Toronto-based players in the program.

In October, Nurse stressed the importance of program consistency. Freeing up a pair of his NBA assistants, who also served as assistants with him for the national team, allows for some of that consistency despite the in-season window. They will also be coaching for the February window.

Bjorkgren will officially serve as head coach for those first two windows, with Mitchell taking charge of the AmeriCup in Brazil this summer.

And after?

First place for Canada gets off to a good start against the Bahamas. That’s exactly what Canada did in 2019 World Cup qualifying, beating the Bahamas twice by an aggregate score of 206-136. (Canada ranks 18th in the latest FIBA ​​rankings, compared to 59th for the Bahamas.)

The next step in the FIBA ​​program for Canada Basketball and Sportsnet will be the senior women’s team taking part in their FIBA ​​World Cup 2022 qualifying tournament from February 10-13 in Japan, followed by the qualifying window of the February 24-27 for senior men.

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