The Can Ball Report takes time to talk to Canadian National Team veteran Jesse Young during a break from his two a days in Toronto. We talk about his career, the current Men National Team and Ricky Rubio.
Toronto - With over 48 international games under his belt and counting, Peterborough native Jesse Young is the longest current member of the Canadian Senior Men’s National team and arguably one of the toughest guys to ever suit up for the Red and White. After another pro year in the top Greek division last season, the George Mason alum will look help Canada qualify for the 2010 World Championships over the next few weeks before he flies back to Europe to suit up for his new team, Polaris World Murcia, this fall. We caught up with Jesse during a break from practice before the Senior Men take off for the Marchand Continental Cup in Puerto Rico before the World Championship Qualifier.
Can Ball: First off Jesse how are things with you?
Jesse Young: This was past year was a difficult year for me. I went over (to play in Europe) and hurt myself within a matter of months. I had broken my hand the practice before my first game of the season and then I sprained my knee. Injuries keep coming but I’m feeling good now and I’m looking forward to Puerto Rico.
CB: With that in mind how’s the summer with the Team been for you this year?
JY: The summer’s been good. We’ve all been together for four, five years now so we definitely got camaraderie and it’s good to see everybody. Being in Italy winning four out of six is a big step for us and gives us some confidence going into Puerto Rico.
CB: You mentioned that you guys have been together for a while with some more than others. How have you found the chemistry of the team?
JY: I think it’s great. This year everyone’s one the same page. Last year there were some situations that we all had to deal with that made us stronger as a group. I think this year is a year that we can get things done and qualify for the Worlds. (Looking at last year’s team) I think just with a lot of the younger guys, I think they’ve all matured. Andy had a great year, Carl, Olu had great years. Everyone who played last year is coming off big years. Everyone’s coming in with a lot of confidence and the thing is that everyone’s on the same page and that’s been a first for a long time?
CB: What exactly do you mean by everyone’s "on the same page"? What’s the goal?
JY: Win! Qualifying is the goal and I think that’s everyone’s goal. I think everyone’s sick of losing and not being able to show the world what Canada has to offer. This is an opportunity for us to show the fans of Canada that we definitely can get things done and we’re gonna be in the World Championships next year.
CB: Looking to the upcoming tournaments, how do you feel about the field that Canada will be playing in?
JY: Every game’s gonna be tough especially down there. It’ll be a tough tournament and we have to win every game we can. I think we have a good pool to start off with but we’ve got to play everyone once anyway so your pool won’t matter. Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, it’s gonna be tough but if we concentrate, don’t turnover the ball we’ll be able to win games.
CB: Do you foresee any match up issues when playing these elite level international teams?
JY: I think we just can’t turnover the ball, especially against Pan American teams. You turnover the ball, it’s a layup or a dunk so if we can hold onto the ball we’ll be in every game. That’s been our backbone over the last few years. We’ve turned the ball over and then when they get that lead we sort of quit. If we’re able to hold onto the rock then we got a shot every game.
CB: Since you’re one of the longest serving players on the Senior Team, what do you feel of the direction Canada Basketball is going in this summer?
JY: I think we got a real bright future. I’m on my last legs but there’s a lot of young guys, guys like Tristan (Thompson), Dwight (Powell), (Myck) Kabongo and (Kevin) Pangos that are working out with us. These are kids who aren’t even in university yet that can really play. So I think (the National Program) is definitely going in the right direction. Getting people like Maurizio Gherardini and Renato Pasquali involved, guys that really know that game, will really help these kids for sure.
CB: With that in mind, do you feel that having these young guys more involved in the National Team Program early is helping to ingrain that sense of national pride in the game and wanting to play for the team?
JY: Oh definitely. I think that a lot of the younger kids these days get caught up with AAU and going down to the States which is understandable because you need exposure to get seen and you have to do things like that but the international game is a totally different game. The earlier these young kids get involved and the earlier they get that pride of playing for your country it’ll never go away. I think these kids taking the time out of their schedules to come and work out with us shows us that their definitely committed and that they’re going to be part of the national program for the future.
CB: Do you feel that your involvement with the National Team Program has helped you get a feel for the International game and helped you as a pro?
JY: For sure. I started when I was 19 so I got a good taste of (the international game) early before I even got to college so I had an idea of what the game is like. There’s nothing like playing for your country, being able to travel all over the world and playing teams from all over. It’s helped me with not just basketball but life in general.
CB: Since you’ve been with the National Program for a few years and the Senior Men’s Team for a few summers, do you have any highlights that mark your experiences?
JY: There are a lot of great memories on the court but to tell you the truth most of my highlights come off the court. Just being around guys you’ve grown up with, care about and had great times with. My highlights are definitely being in the locker room, in the hotels, travelling with these guys.
CB: Something that’s made the rounds on the internet and news wire the last little while was an incident between Canada and Italy. What happened there?
JY: It was just a chippy game from the get go. There were words said back and forth on the court throughout the game and sometimes in an atmosphere like that it gets a little out of control. One guy took it to another level and it escalated from there. It was a pretty fun time actually. We all wanted to beat them in our last game and we played well only losing by three.
CB: Did you feel that this incident was a solidifying factor for the team?
JY: I think so especially in the locker room when everyone looks around and sees that everyone has each others’ backs. That’s especially huge going into a tournament like (the Marchand Cup) where you’re playing eight games in nine days.
CB: Now you have been one of the few players that have had the pleasure of playing with Ricky Rubio. Can you give our readers the scoop on Ricky as a player.
JY: I played with Ricky for two years at Joventut from when he was 15 and he’s a special talent, someone to keep an eye on in the future. He’s kind of a throwback, like Pistol Pete. He one of those guys that’s really gifted and he really knows the game. He’s got a bright future for sure. He’s still a young kid and it’s going to take him some time to adjust to the NBA game but I think he’s got that killer instinct and Nash vision. He’s going to be exciting to watch for sure. And he’s also a nice guy.
CB: Now you had just recently signed a new contract for the coming season. Can you give us your take on your new situation?
JY: I’ve been playing in Spain for six years so it’s going to be a change for me. (Jesse signed a deal with Polaris World Murcia in the Spanish ACB league) I’m looking forward to the change and I felt that it was time for a change. It’s a good club and I’m excited. I’ve played a little while in Spain so I’m used to the Spanish league, I know the players, coaches and I’m used to the culture but going to a whole new situation is like starting fresh, a little nerve racking but definitely exciting.
CB: Well Jesse thanks for your time and good luck with this summer and your coming season in Spain.
- For more on the Senior Men's National Team's quest go to www.basketball.ca -