With the US having been crowned kings of the basketball world and the Senior Women taking to the floor very soon for their shot at a world medal, the Can Ball Report finally decides to weigh in on the debacle that was the Senior Men's outing in Turkey. We know it's a little wait but waiting for the heads to cool off took a little time so here we go ...
I have been wondering for a little while if I should even post this thing I wrote but I figure that I need to. I’ve been sitting on it for a little while, about a month really, and with the Senior Women just days away from their World Championship, I think it’s time to make a comment on the Senior Men’s National Team. There has been some time to let the dust settle and the fuses to flame out so now I think I’m thinking clearly.
So let’s get that question out of the way: What the hell happened to the Senior Men in Turkey?
Remember that this team is the same team that beat China in Vancouver and France twice in Toronto. This is the same team that had third quarter collapses and was able to pull out the wins all three times and in convincing fashion. China had one NBA player and France had five plus an NBA Draftee and a former NBA player. The team concept was working with different guys stepping up and making huge contributions on the nightly all without Jermaine Anderson for the games. So then, with the same team showing up in Turkey, what was the cause of the collapse?
There has been lots of talk of the results of the team in Turkey were due to poor coaching. In my humble opinion, I don’t think that the tanking of the National Team in Turkey was as simple as Coach Rautins effing up Xs and Os in critical points of games. Though his relative lack of major coaching experience was more of an issue when he was hired, it can’t be the most blatant thing five years later. He now has at least that many years experience and he has managed to surround himself with enough experienced coaching talent to help guide him through his situations. I know that Leo is the guy that has all the eyes on him and he has been taking the brunt of all the criticism from the public. The media has done its part to rally around and help protect him to some degree. I wish it could be that easy but it isn’t.
Now I had tossed out a poll question about a while ago when the team was only at 0-3 and the results are telling of varying opinions of the whole situation. The runaway winner of the poll was that Canada didn’t have that much talent and I think that is the biggest discrepancy between the Red and White and the rest of the world. And the truth is that is exactly right.
Canada was not just missing a go-to player, they were missing all the parts necessary to compete at this level. Now when I say all the parts, I don’t mean there was no talent because there was. Despite the defeats in Izmir, they still did beat China and France here and they were on route to a blow out win over Lithuania until they collapsed so they had guys that could play. But at this level, Canada was just simply a little short.
We have great guys on the team right now, guys that would be great role players on most teams. In fact, most of these guys are role players on their respective teams, if they had played pro overseas the previous year. For most of them, they were role players on their college teams too. The only exception to this would be Andy Rautins but he wasn’t even at a 100% for the tournament and left after the third game to get treatment in New York. OK, Rob Sacre and Denham Brown would also be exceptions to that but they are not the be all, end all for this team. Sacre averaged less ten minutes per game and Brown averaged less than nine points as a scoring threat. This should be enough to have you scratching your head as a fan.
So is there talent out there? Of course there is.
I’ve been asked many questions over the last year about guys that shoulda/coulda been on the National Team, or at least get a look for the team and I’ve always said that Canada Basketball has their list and they track those guys that can play or make noise all over the world. Now I have to pose the question is the organization really looking at every possible player available to help further the program and the game in this country?
Let’s assume that everyone one is fair game and will be asked to participate in the National Team camp. Guys that I would expect to see are former NCAA studs like Tristan Blackwood, Steve Sir, Scott Morrison and Sean Denison, current NCAA guys like Olu Ashoalu, Andrew Nicholson, Devoe and Kris Joseph and the high school guys like Cory Joseph, Myck Kabongo, Tristan Thompson and Kyle Wiltjer. Now assuming that all of these players show up to camp and only these guys rep the flag in Turkey, I think you have a very talented team. And this doesn’t include the other guys playing pro, in college both in Canada and the US and the various high school guys on both sides too. Add in some of the vets from the current team and you have yourself a bunch of guys that, at least on paper, can contend with almost any team in the world. But alas, that was not the case this time around and from what I’m getting from my various source, may not be the case for a while to come.
The bottom line is this: Canada needs to get some more talented guys on the floor. The current incarnation of the Senior Men’s National Team played their hearts out but they were largely just overmatched when it mattered most and for the Road Warriors it was the fourth quarter. After grinding out a games night in and night out, bodies start to ache and psyches begin to slip. And we saw the results of that. In the fourth quarter, talent will always trump all else even if it’s played 35 minutes.
I’m not going to lie, when Canada was beating France and China at home, I was thinking that the team would make a huge leap forward and Leo would obviously look like a genius taking the "everybody is even at the talent level" boat. The wins would come at the Worlds, the profile of the game would grow big time and sponsors would line up and all would be great. But that didn’t exactly happen. Now that the plan of being even across the board seems to have backfired (thanks to a combination of injuries and, he seems like the program fell a few hundred feet backwards instead.
Expect a full report card of the National Program's summer to come out soon after the Women's World Championships.