You may remember the heartbreak when the Canadian Men’s National Basketball team just fell short of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just a few short years ago. It seems as if this team as done a complete flip from those days, now being 10-0 in the qualifying rounds of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
If you’ve been following along, the Canadian Men have been playing in hopes of booking their World Cup ticket for over a year, travelling all over North America and the Caribbean to play. On Saturday, they finally got over the point threshold needed to officially qualify for the tournament being hosted by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
Canada hosted a mini-tournament in Edmonton last weekend where they welcomed Panama and Venezuela for games. It was against Venezuela that Canada qualified in a 94-56 win. The 112-71 win against Panama on Sunday was just a nice added bonus.
The team was coached by associate head coach Nate Bjorkgren, since head coach Nick Nurse is in the middle of the NBA season with the Toronto Raptors. The squad was missing several other household Canadian names as many of the team’s best are currently with their NBA teams as well.
Yet, it was no trouble for this current team to secure the wins that would lead the team to the World Cup.
In Thursday’s game, Kassius Robertson led all scorers with 16 points, shooting 100% from the field and from the three point line. He plays in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A (LBA) basketball league for Reggio Emilia.
Conor Morgan, Kenny Chery, and Thomas Scrubb each scored 12 for Canada in the victory.
In Sunday’s game against Panama, it was Aaron Best who came out on top for Canada with 22 points. Robertson had 13, with Trae Bell-Haynes, Melvin Ejim, and Conor Morgan each scoring 12.
When it comes to the World Cup next summer, the Canadian roster will look a lot different. Since some of these qualifying tournaments have happened during the NBA season, most of Canada’s World Cup roster has had to miss them.
Fourteen Canadian athletes made a three-year commitment to playing for the Men’s National team, through the 2024 Paris Olympics, many of those prominent NBA talent.
Among the list are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Jamal Murray, Kelly Olynyk and more.
With the “winter core” — as the squad who played this weekend has come to be known as — playing most of the qualifying tournaments, and the team’s 10-0 record, it’s evident Canadian Basketball is in an incredible era.
The Canadian Women’s National team recently competed in their World Cup in Australia, where they placed fourth in the world, their highest ranked performance at a FIBA World Cup in decades. Both the men’s and the women’s teams have their sights set on making the podium at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Men’s team have a lot more to play before then, with their next qualifying match coming in February against Argentina. Most of the current Winter Core should be back for that game, but for now they have returned to their club teams.
The 2023 FIBA World Cup will be held from August 25 to September 10th in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, and will be available to watch on Sportsnet.