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The Two Biggest Wins of the Summer

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These two wins over Belgium this past weekend are showing a more improved Senior Men's team and that they, like the program, are heading in the right direction.
These two wins over Belgium this past weekend are showing a more improved Senior Men's team and that they, like the program, are heading in the right direction.

Canada's Senior Men seemed to be on the right track after two wins against Belgium this past week.  The wins come just in time before they head off to South America for the Tutu Marchand Tournament and then onto the FIBA Americas Qualifier.  Can Ball Ray take a look at these wins and their significance ...



The Canadian Senior Men came away with a pair of wins this past weekend against Belgium at the Jack Donahue International Classic and though they were not blowouts, they were all won by single digit margins, they were still wins. 

WINS!!!  That is what the public has been clamoring for right – wins.

And in truth, so have I and these may have been the two of the biggest since getting into the World Championships three summers ago.

What these two wins, insignificant in the eyes of things such as FIBA rankings or Olympic qualifying determinations, were very significant to the psyche of the basketball loving public.  After enduring a lengthy losing streak that had begun last summer and effectively iced any warm feelings for the program up to that point, the two wins were a breath of fresh air. 

Let me just take this very second to point out that the Senior Men are now sporting a 3-1 record over their last four games.  Not bad, right.  And the fact that the last two were against a team that was not ranked among FIBA’s top 75 teams should not matter at all.  All that matters at this point is that the Senior Men are winning. 

The players that have played in the games look like they are cohesive as a unit.  Joel Anthony and Carl English along with the prodigal son Cory Joseph were all entering their first forays with this team this past weekend and despite having been in for drills and workouts, you can never really know how the team will take to them.  We only need to think to the Iverson experiment in Denver to know that no matter how good a player, or players are, them simply showing up doesn’t necessary mean that they team will be better.  The cohesion I witnessed firsthand on the Saturday at Ryerson and this week in workouts was very impressive for the various factors that could prevent that. 

So with all that in mind, can we view the next few international exhibition games to be mirrors of the team’s future success at the Olympic qualifiers?

I would lean towards no.  Talking to Coach Leo, and he has stressed this many times, is that exhibition games mean little in the overall scheme of things.  I agree heavily but conversely exhibition losses can also be momentum killers and support breakers. 

The two wins on Canadian soil in venues that were packed to the walls with die hard supporters of the National Team program was like kindling being sparked.  The intimate atmosphere of both Ryerson’s Kerr Hall and McMaster University’s Burridge Gym only added to the wins.  Looking at the blowouts against France last summer at the Air Canada Centre to a largely empty arena made those wins seem hollow and insignificant.  Here, the small but cozy venue gave everyone in the seats or standing on the floor the connection to the players, the program and to each other lending more to the experience but most importantly to the fans’ psyche.  These two wins were what the basketball loving public needed to get some wind into the National Team's sails and show that there has been some progress in the last two weeks.  I think these wins were much needed and a long time coming. 

And not only do these wins affect the public and their perception of the team, they may also affect the players themselves.  The vets who have been through the high of getting to the World Championships only to get to the lows of the stumbling through them, these wins give them validation that the team is capable of winning, and my I add without certain players.  For the new guys, it shows that they are walking into a situation where success is achievable and not long off from being self sustaining.  Serving that dual purpose cannot be understated. 

I think it would have been disastrous if the Senior Men had lost these two games but the bottom line is that they did not.  These are still meant to be "learning games" and we cannot, as basketball loving people overly eager to have our country fulfilling the promise of our young talent propelling the program to the elite of the world, invest our heart and souls into them no matter what side of the win column the team lands on.  Our joy and enthusiasm must be tempered with the fact that our boys are still getting things together, working out kinks and acclimatizing themselves to each other.  Two wins doesn't mean they're perfect but that they are all on the right track and making their way successfully. 

Now does this mean that I’m going to rain on anyone’s parade if they come up to me to gush about the victories?  Of course not!  I’m as happy about the wins as the next person but I will tread lightly about projecting these wins into the future games. 

For the time being, I’ll revel in the fact that Canada is still perfect on home soil over that last two summers and these last two wins were probably the biggest two in the last little while, at least from the standpoint of those who are looking to support the team going forward.