During the Senior Men's exhibition games against France last week in Toronto, The Can Ball Report managed to run into Coach Roy Rana who graciously allowed us some time to talk about his thoughts on the Nike Global Challenge. Check out his comments on Birch, Wiltjer and other up and coming players right here ...
Roy Rana has had a busy summer to say the least. He had coached the Cadet Men's National Team that won a Bronze medal in Germany last month and then has been running the recruiting trail in between his Canada Basketball commitments gearing up for his second season as head coach of the Ryerson University Rams. Despite all of that, he was named to coach the Canadian team that went to the Nike Global Challenge in Portland, OR earlier this month. We caught up with Coach Rana to talk about the event, Khem Birch, Kyle Wiltjer and some guys that impressed him there ...
Can Ball Report: Thanks Coach Rana for taking the time out here. You had just returned from the Nike Global Challenge not too long ago. Tell me how that was?
Roy Rana: It was a great experience again. It’s a little different than a world championship, the contingent is heavier in American talent but it’s at a very high level and the age groups are a little bit older as well. It’s just great to have these kids get as much international exposure as possible so it’s a positive event.
Can Ball Report: Great. Now a couple of guys seemed to have stood out for Canada and there has been a lot of buzz around them. First, tell me about Khem Birch and how he played.
Roy Rana: Khem, it was my first opportunity to coach him and I can honestly say that it was an incredible experience for me as a coach. He’s a very low maintenance kid, a real character kid, a team guy. He was one of our captains out in Portland. You don’t have to run offense for him, he just makes things happen for himself. He rebounds, he plays so hard, he’s such an exceptional athlete, he has such an impact on the game on both defense and offense end. He’s a force! He’s a special player and I think he’s a chance to be a huge part of our future success with Canada Basketball.
Can Ball Report: Now you mentioned Khem as a low maintenance player. Can you explain that a little?
Roy Rana: (I just mean) that he doesn’t ask for anything, he doesn’t need anything, he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t need the ball a lot, he goes out and gets it. I’ll give you a little story. (At this event) Nike showers you with all this product and gear and one of the reps tried to give him a pair of shoes he already had and he turned it down. He said I don’t need it. How many kids are turning down things at this day and age? He’s just a real quality young man who wants to win. Like I said he’s a competitor, he’s coachable and he’s not asking for anything he just goes out there and makes it happen.
Can Ball Report: Great to hear. Now the other player making waves was Kyle Wiltjer. He’s obviously very high on people’s radar. Tell me about his performance.
Roy Rana: He has such a veteran presence on the floor because he makes the game easy for himself. He’s just a smart guy with such a great skill set; he shoots the three, play down low in the post. He’s not someone who’s trying to become the best perimeter player or the best post player. He’s got a really strong grounding in the fact that he has become the best player he possibly can which means on both ends of the floor. One of the things he really focused on this summer on the AAU circuit was becoming a better post player so he just played down low in the post whereas he has a lot of strengths on the perimeter. He’s very complete from the skill set perspective. He gets a lot done, he rebounds well, he’s getting better defensively and he’s another one (like Khem). He’s just a very, very special player with a great skill set.
Can Ball Report: Now of the guys you brought down not named Wiltjer or Birch did any of them surprise you in Portland?
Roy Rana: I thought Kevin Pangos. I’m usually very conservative with my praise for Kevin because we’re placed some pretty heavy expectations on him and that’s not easy for him. I thought in our Bronze medal game against INSEP (the French basketball academy) he really showed what he’s capable of. I mean he took over a very big game down the stretch, made great decisions, shot the ball when he needed to, made shots, got the rim, got his teammates involved and he really stepped up defensively. He was very good and I was very impressed by him.
(Another who impressed me was) Andrew Wiggins. As a 15 year old playing 30-plus minutes in that environment. (I really liked that he was) buying into focusing on his defense and letting his offense come to him. I thought he was very impressive.
Can Ball Report: Now lastly, how do you feel the guys stack up to the competition overall?
Roy Rana: I thought we were actually quite good. The second game that we lost, it was the first time all summer that I’d been with any age group team where we just didn’t show up. We just had no energy, we came out flat and they just took advantage of that and it was tough. It’s been a long summer for those kids and they found a way to get energized for that last game which was big. I think the reality is that we don’t have the depth of talent that (some countries might) but I think our top level athletes are very comparable.
Can Ball Report: Well Coach thanks again for spending the time with us. We’ll look forward to seeing you at the helm of the Ryerson Rams again this fall.