With the start of the new Senior Men's National Team well underway before the Olympic qualifying Tournament of the Americas, Can Ball Ray spoke with Head Coach Leo Rautins about the first phase of the training camp. Check out the interview right here ...
After the Monday session of the Senior Men's Training Camp at Ryerson University in Toronto, we managed to sneak some questions with the man who'll be leading the team from the bench, head coach Leo Rautins ...
Can Ball Ray: Can you talk about this team after what looks like an overhaul of the roster. There seem to be a few new faces to both the Senior Team and the National Program in general.
Leo Rautins: I wouldn’t call it an overhaul because basically our final team will have at least 11 guys that have been here (to the camp before). We have some younger faces in camp, some different players that I think can be a part of our program in the future and we want to give them experience (and) we’re also talking to a few players who aren’t here right now. This is a difficult summer in terms of the NBA lockout. We’ve been dealing with all kinds of insurance issues and so forth and we’ve just got them worked out. Every country is in the same boat, everybody’s dealing with it. We were just able to pretty much work it out so now it’s a question of finalizing a few other things with some different players but like I said the core is the same. The core is the key because the core is what’s going to keep the continuity.
And we’re healthy. Last summer we just got killed physically. We got players back that couldn’t play last summer so I like this group. It’s a good group.
Can Ball Ray: Just going to point of players that were hurt last summer, tell me what it means to have guys back who weren’t available last time around.
Leo Rautins: Two years ago, when we qualified for the World Championships (in 2009) Jesse (Young) was a big part of that. He’s just a physical, aggressive guy that really understands the international game. He’s a great team guy, he’s a great locker room guy, he sets the tone, he’s your policeman out here - this is his team and you’re not going to mess with it - and that’s really, really important. Not having Jesse last summer was difficult summer for him and it certainly hurt us.
Carl English is (also) back. People don’t realize it (but) two summers ago we lead the Americas qualifier in 3-PT %, threes (made) and assists (not exactly but pretty close) and we were one of the top scoring teams and Carl was a big part of that. I think Carl shot 60% from the three. He’s a very creative offensive player that adds a big dimension to us. To have those two back with the other guys that are older, stronger, better and healthy (is a great addition).
Last summer, Andy (Rautins) got hurt at the Worlds and was basically was a non factor, Aaron Doornekamp got hurt, Jermaine Anderson was hurt and was never close to 100% and not having Jesse and Carl on top of that, that’s tough for us to overcome. We’re just not deep enough to overcome that. So far to see everybody here, healthy, feeling good, excited to be playing, we’re really excited. (For those of you those of you who don't remember, last summer Canada looked very good in exhibition games against China and France but seemed to sputter along at the World Championships due to key injuries, Can Ball Ray.)
Can Ball Ray: Now with the new guys here like Portland’s Nem Mitrovic, recently graduated Jamie Vanderbeken and older guys like Jeff Ferguson, do you see them making a roster spot?
Leo Rautins: That’s up to them. I have no issues with making changes and putting people in who can helps us play. I think they have a great opportunity in camp, I think they have a great opportunity going forward to the next phase. We will have to make a few cuts before we leave for Europe but I think the players you’ve mentioned are gonna have an opportunity to stay with us and get a good look. It really is up to them. For some of them, I think they’re overwhelmed as far as say a Jamie Vanderbeken. You’re a 6’10" college player, there are not a lot of guys (his size) especially in his conference that can run the floor and shoot now suddenly you’re on the floor with three, four other guys that can shoot and put the ball on the floor. Plus, I think this is something that a lot of people don’t grasp, the international game is a different game and it takes a little time to get used to. The misconception is that if you get all these talented players to show up you’re going to win and it doesn’t work that way. You got to get acclimated, you got to understand the game, you got to understand how to play the game and for some guys it’s a little overwhelming … but over time they can overcome that and get comfortable (in it).
Can Ball Ray: With the lockout, as you mentioned earlier, there are obviously some players who aren’t here, while some other guys have school commitments for the summer. Do you ever put much weight on guys who are not (at camp)?
Leo Rautins: You can’t do anything about it. The way I look at it if a player doesn’t see the value, and not saying that not everybody does, but I just saying that if a player doesn’t see the value of what (the camp) can do for his game then they are being advised the wrong way. Now obviously if you have academic commitments there’s nothing you can do about that but we have a lot of players that may just be in that school environment and, what are you doing? It’s illegal in the NCAA for coaches to work with you over the summer so what are you doing, you’re playing pickup ball. We get a lot of players that get convinced that that’s where they should be and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not going to stop, it’s always going to be an issue. Take Joel Anthony for great example. Here’s a guy that was undrafted and is now in the middle of a $25 million contract because he saw the value here. Every summer he comes here to get better. Even now, after a long NBA season going to the Finals, he could have easily said "Hey, I’m good." Even though he’s not going to play in the first phase because physically he’s not ready, he’s still here in camp to get up to speed, to be with the guys, the ready, to mentally and somewhat physically prepare him for the next phase when he will be there. That’s a pro, that a guy that gets it. If somebody’s not here, they’ve been given an opportunity, it’s been laid out so I can’t worry about that.
Cory Joseph may join us in the second phase. That was more of an insurance and agent issue so it’s still not 100% yet but we’re discussing that right now to see if there’s a fit. He’s got to want to be here, he’s got to want to be in a situation, it’s got to work with the insurance.
Can Ball Ray: Thanks again for your time Coach. We’ll talk to you again soon.
Be on the look out for more exclusive interviews from the Senior Men's training camp throughout the summer leading up to the Olympic qualifying tournament in August. Also be sure to tune into The Can Ball Report on Twitter (@CanBallReport) for live tweets from the camp sessions also.