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Team Canada kicks off journey to World Cup with 115-73 win over The Bahamas

The Canadian Senior Men’s team started strong on their long path to the FIBA 2023 World Cup with a dominant win over The Bahamas.

The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team started their journey to the 2023 FIBA World Cup Sunday afternoon as they took on The Bahamas in the Dominican Republic. It was also the very first game under the new broadcast partnership between Sportsnet and FIBA.

This begins a long process for Canada as they hope to be one of the 30 teams that eventually competes in the World Cup and one of the seven teams that competes from the Americas region. That is a while away though, and the focus now is placing in the top three of their current group which includes The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

If they are able to do that, Canada will then be put into a group with the three best teams from Group A (Argentina, Venezuela, Panama, and Paraguay) to form another group. That group will compete in games through 2022 and into 2023, Canada hoping to be in the top three yet again, or have the best record between the other 4th place teams — and THAT will qualify them for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Simple enough?

Canada’s hopes are high going into these next few years, with young talent coming up to form a strong team. Though none of the team’s NBA talent will be joining them this weekend in the Dominican Republic, the hope is to have some of them join for later qualifiers and then hopefully for the World Cup itself.

With players such as R.J. Barrett, Jamal Murray, and everyone’s favourite homegrown Raptor Dalano Banton possibly making appearances on the roster for years to come, it seems like Team Canada should be in good hands come 2023.

But for right now, Canada has a roster of great young players and pro-players who play in the EuroLeague ready to represent the North. And they started repping today against The Bahamas.

The team came out hot Sunday afternoon, shooting eight threes to gain a 10-point lead to end the first quarter — and kept it up to finish out the half 23 points up on The Bahamas, led by Kenny Chery who had 15 points going into the break. Aaron Best also finished out the second quarter having made all three of his shot attempts from beyond the arc.

The lead continued to extend through the third quarter — which is essential, since the stats from these preliminary games carry over to matter in future qualifying scores. As part of FIBA rules, points scored is often a deciding factor for tiebreakers in the group standings. Even if Canada progresses to the next round of qualifiers late next year, every point they score now is essential to qualifying for the World Cup.

Kyle Wiltjer made his mark in the third, and by the end of the quarter had 23 points on 9/13 from the field including five three pointers. Canada ended the third quarter up 92-51.

The fourth quarter saw Team Canada continue to widen the gap in the score, even as the starting players took a seat for the younger players to get minutes near the end. One fun moment was when Kalif Karl Young took about four seconds on the court in his first appearance for the Team Canada Senior squad to make a great play at the rim and get a foul, smiling as he stepped up to the stripe.

In the end, Canada won their first World Cup 2023 qualifier 115-73 over The Bahamas.

Key performances for Team Canada included Kyle Wiltjer, who finished with 23 points, three assists and two rebounds; and Kenny Chery who scored 18 points, and got seven assists and four rebounds.

Aaron Best also had a great game scoring 21 points and four rebounds, as did Kyle Alexander with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Ultimately it looks as if Team Canada is in good hands until the NBA talent can join the roster in coming months.

Canada will face The Bahamas again tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 29) at 4pm EST on Sportsnet to finish off their schedule until February 2022.