Canadian basketball players relish the chance to play at home in the Globl Jam U23 tournament

UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards runs past South Carolina’s Destanni Henderson during the first half of a college basketball game in the final round of the Women’s Final Four NCAA Tournament on April 3, 2022 in Minneapolis.The Associated Press

At a recent meeting of Canada’s under-23 basketball teams, players were asked to raise their hands if they had ever played for Canada on home soil.

Two of the more than 30 players present raised their hands.

This week’s inaugural Globl Jam tournament is not just an opportunity to close the gap in Canada’s national schedule between junior and senior teams, but a rare chance for the country’s most talented young players to don the leaf. maple at home.

Aaliyah Edwards, one of two who played on home soil – in the Olympic qualifiers in Edmonton – relishes the chance to be a role model for the young girls who will be there.

“It’s amazing, because we can inspire, motivate and encourage young women and show them that they can reach this level,” said the Connecticut Huskies forward. “We’re able to show them some high-caliber basketball right here at home and it’s going to be so much fun competing in front of friends and family, who are used to seeing me on TV.”

The new FIBA-sanctioned tournament kicks off Tuesday at the Mattamy Athletic Center in Toronto. The Canadian men face the United States, Brazil and Italy while the women face the United States, Belgium and France.

The event helps bridge a gap that exists between the Under-19 age group and the senior squads, which typically include a small number of U23 players – RJ Barrett on the men’s side, for example, and Edwards and Shaina Pellington for women.

“We have over 200 NCAA players in Division 1 who are Canadian, so we have this age group coming in who soon won’t have enough places to play,” CEO Michael Bartlett said. of Canada Basketball. “So if we’re playing the long game…we have to give them opportunities.

“With a few exceptions on the women’s side, very few of these players will be in Paris in 2024 [Olympics]but many of them will be on the 2028 Olympic team for LA, so tournaments like this give them more shots to play at home, more shots to learn how to win the tough games against teams like the States States and France and other world powers.

“It’s up to us to make sure they’re ready to take the plunge. We’ve always kind of left it to the athlete to lay out their own professional career development for us. [But] it is our job to prepare them for us.

Ryan Nembhard, who won the Big East freshman award last season for the Creighton Bluejays, has never played for Canada on home soil.

“It’s always great to be able to put on your country’s jersey, and it’s a great feeling to be at home. … I’m super excited,” said the 19-year-old guard from Aurora, Ont.

Nembhard and Edwards, along with a handful of players from each team, attended a community event Monday morning at Regent Park in east Toronto where they engaged a few dozen youngsters in basketball drills .

While Canada has traditionally struggled to secure commitments from NBA players to appear at Olympic and World Cup qualifying games, Bartlett hopes giving U23 players more opportunities at home will foster a sense of stronger culture within the program.

“I bet if we have a generation of athletes who play more at home, when it comes to asking them to make a tough decision to go overseas and play with us in a key qualifier, their loyalty to the program is deeper,” he said. “I think their loyalty to the country has always been strong. You have to keep them on the program and it’s a two-way street.

Although there is no FIBA ​​U23 ranking, Canada is ranked 4th in the world for boys (U18) and 8th for girls.

“We’re now good enough in all age groups to have a chance to win every time we play,” Bartlett said. “At the end of the day, this country loves basketball and loves sports and loves winning sports. … So let’s play more at home.

Canada Basketball has announced that next year’s Globl Jam will also be held in Toronto.

Carly Clarke is the head coach of Canada’s women’s team, which kicks off against Belgium on Tuesday, while Toronto Raptors assistant Nathaniel Mitchell will make his men’s debut as Canada’s head coach. , which will start on Tuesday against Brazil.

Canada Lists

Women: Shy Day-Wilson, Toronto; The Shae Dwyer, Toronto; Aaliyah Edwards, Kingston, Ont.; Yvonne Ejim, Calgary; Taya Hanson, Kelowna, BC; Phillipina Kyei, Calgary; Latasha Lattimore, Toronto; Rosalie Mercille, St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que.; Shaina Pellington, Pickering, Ont.; Merissah Russell, Ottawa; Sarah Te-Biasu, Montreal; Tara Wallack, Surrey, BC

Men: Keesawn Barthelemy, Montreal; Charles Bediako, Brampton, Ont.; Marcus Carr, Toronto; Quincy Guerrier, Montreal; Kur Jongkuch, London, Ont.; Thomas Kennedy, Windsor, Ont.; Liam McChesney, Prince Rupert, BC; Emmanuel Miller, Toronto; Leonard Miller, Toronto; Ryan Nembhard, Aurora, Ont.; Addison Patterson, Milton, Ont.; Stefan Smith, Ajax, Ont.

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