With a very big summer for Canada Basketball starting up soon, a press conference was held this past Friday for to kick it off. Announcing the up coming Cadet and Junior National Teams tryouts that'll begin in the coming weeks, everyone in the room had the very same idea: excitement for the future. The Can Ball Report takes a look at press conference as a sign of the things to come for the National Team programs ...
This past Friday The Can Ball Report (read me) went to the first of I would think are many Canada Basketball press conferences this summer. With a busy few months ahead for our National Teams, it was fitting that the first event featured the future of Canada’s hardwood talent. Highlighted by the appearance of Toronto’s own Myck Kabongo, the press conference was an introduction to not only the Cadet and Junior National Team Programs but also to a new season of a new basketball era.
Now I’ve been to my share of Canada Basketball pressers and despite the brave face of the many dramatis personae present, there was always a mood of subdued hopefulness. Hopefulness being the operative emotion/mindset: Hopeful that we have a good group of guys in camp, hopeful that we will convince Jamaal Magloire to show up this summer, hopeful that we win a game against the Middle Eastern national team we face in a month, just hopeful. That was not the case this time around.
I don’t remember when Canada Basketball had a press conference for any team except the Senior Men or Women so this is a big event in itself. What’s more impressive was that there was a whole lot to be truly hopeful off this summer.
The mood at the Algonquin Room at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto was full of excitement. The energy, if you want to call it that in a small conference room full of people on a summer afternoon, was very upbeat. I got there late since I went to the wrong hotel (because I have a mild case of blondeness according to my wife) but when I finally arrived, the place was buzzin’. Not in the usual way that we Canadians buzz, semis politely in hushed tones, but buzzin’ like a hive of bees. People were happy, almost giddy at the prospect of this coming summer for our young National Teams. The excitement in the air is what immediately struck me. It’s hard not to get swept up in it.
When the delegates took their turn to speak, they speak they all echoed the excitement. Everyone seemed one, genuinely happy to be a part of the program; two, optimistic about the possibility of major success this summer; and three, on the same page regarding the plan, goals and path to reach these goals. It was almost cult-like, but in a good way. Can this be the start of the resurgence of our once prominent basketball program?
I’ll digress now to talk about two things that really struck me when I was doing my media thing (read interviews).
The first thing that I found really telling of the excitement was that it was rooted in the young players’ desire to play for the program. When I spoke to the three National Team coaches (Greg Francis, Roy Rana and Leo Rautins) and I asked about the excitement around this coming summer, they all pointed to the fact that our young players are now aspiring to play for Canada.
That is freakin' amazing!!!
It’s hard to imagine that top aspiring junior hockey players wouldn’t want to done the Red and White on the ice, but imagine they did. Where would Hockey Canada be if there was a sudden drought of talent coming up the ranks? Canada would probably be playing at a level equal to that of Zimbabwe. Well, Canada Basketball had that drought. After the Atlanta Olympics, the best young talent just didn’t want to play for Canada for whatever reason, sad to say. Francis, Rana and Rautins all commented on the fact that more young players now are looking to play for the National Program and this only bodes well for the Senior Teams.
Last summer, I remember seeing Myck Kabongo, Tristan Thompson and Dwight Powell at training camp. That’s three Top 25 players (in the US mind you) with big time reps and high major scholarships committing to Canada. This summer, Kabongo’s back along with a lot of other very talented players looking to make the few roster spots on the both the Cadet and Junior National teams. Some the names on the invite list include both Sim and Tanveer Bhullar, Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos, Anthony Bennett and scholarship guys Julian Clarke, Grandy Glaze and Richard Peters. As Coach Francis said in his talk with me, this may be the most competitive tryout camp in a very long time.
The second thing that struck me was a comment made by Duane Notice to open the media event. Notice, who played in Madison Square Garden at the Jordan Classic, started off by saying that he was expecting to win the Gold at the U17 FIBA Championship this summer. He was expecting to win the Gold! When I spoke to him later on, he echoed the sentiment: He really expects to win the Gold! At any time in the recent collective memory of our National Team program, when did you hear a player say that?
This will be the first time that FIBA will hold a U17 Championship and Notice will likely be playing on that team. Canada has a very good chance a medaling at this event on both the men’s and women’s side, not to mention the U19 FIBA events as well. That medal statement by Notice is a big lift in terms of what the young players are thinking and what their mentality this summer. Just going back to the increased interest in playing for the National Program, if there are more kids-more talented kids at that-with this mindset then the sky’s the limit here for the progam. When these kids are already thinking, my bad expecting they can achieve at a very high level on the world stage than half the battle is already won. Believing is achieving right? The cloud of hopeless effort that once hung over the National Team program in the minds of the youth is lifted and last summer’s successes can only bread more success this summer.
Bottom line for me was that the press conference was a perfect kick off to the basketball summer. Not in the traditional sense that all the base points were discussed (because they were) or that they want to drum up support for the programs (which I’m sure they did) but that it had breathed fresh, new air into a seemingly deflated basketball program’s future. The excitement felt by the people intimately connected and involved was so obvious that it should infect the rest of us. If any of you were thinking that someday the National Teams will turn it around and it’ll begin the upward climb to success on a world stage, look no further. The youth are the future of the progream but the good news is that the future may be now.