Canadian players know this. Coaches know this. All the top basketball Canada officers know it too.
This moment, for this men’s basketball program, cannot be lost.
It’s been two decades since Steve Nash, Rowan Barrett and the rest of these Canadian players left the field at the Olympics in Australia after losing to France.
Now, with an unprecedented amount of talent in the NBA and on this Canadian roster preparing for a last-ditch Olympic qualification in Victoria, the moment has to be now.
“We need to build a team that can play and perform together. It is not about having 12 stars. It’s about making the best team, ”said Barrett, Executive Director of Basketball Canada.
His son RJ Barrett is part of a very talented Canadian team, with eight NBA players.
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WATCH | North Courts breaks down Canada’s last chance Olympic qualification:
The group seeks to capitalize on the development of the program.
“It would mean a lot to us and our country,” said team captain Cory Joseph. “Our country is thirsty for them. I am thirty. That would mean a lot.”
Joseph was a part of talented Canadian teams before experiencing heartbreak on the international stage.
On Monday, before the team’s final training before starting the tournament against Greece on Tuesday, Joseph rejected any suggestion that this team is the favorite ahead of the six-team event.
“In my mind, we haven’t done anything yet. We have a talented group of players. We have to be a team there,” he said. “We’ve had some talented bands before. That’s a big compliment but you have to go out there and put everything in place.”
Now is the time to build an even stronger basketball movement in this country.
“It’s a golden age”
Head coach Nick Nurse, who led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship in 2019, ignited this country’s passion for basketball during this momentous run.
He was hired just 11 days after this very first title to take charge of the Canadian team.
Now he hopes to spark the same spark in people across Canada by bringing the team to the Olympics.
When Nurse spoke to the media after the team’s first practice in Tampa Bay, Fla., She was asked about the legacy.
“Legacy is a funny word for me. I see it that way,” the trainer paused for a second. “There are so many talents and opportunities for growth. There are so many opportunities to do something lasting and great.”
In her last media address ahead of the team’s first game, Nurse spoke about how important it would be to find chemistry fast, play as a team and play hard defensively.
“I’m happy with how the team has finally come together,” he said. “It’s well organized. There are committed and passionate guys. I think there is a strong team here.”
Much of the conversation over the past two decades has always been about who was not on the list for Canada. Again, some will wonder why some players are not on this list.
WATCH | North Courts The panel discusses the national team ahead of the tournament:
But this time around, Rowan Barrett and Nurse have made it clear how much they appreciate those who showed up to wear the Maple Leaf and try to qualify the team for the Olympics.
“I want to start by honoring our players who sacrifice themselves to be here. And I don’t use that word lightly,” Barrett said after the first practice.
“Some have not seen their families for weeks, months and others for over a year.”
The nurse doubled Barrett’s praise for those who put in the time and work.
“I am very grateful to all the guys who are here,” he said. “It means everything they’ve done.”
If the team qualifies for Tokyo, they will be together for seven weeks with a stop in Hawaii after Victoria before going to the Olympics.
It’s a long way, no doubt, but it’s also part of the process of forming new DNA in the men’s basketball program.
“We are all very excited about this opportunity. It is an opportunity that is close to our hearts,” said Dwight Powell.
Canada is drawn in a group with Greece and China. The other group includes Uruguay, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
The top two teams advance to the semi-finals with the league game on Sunday.
“We have one hell of a task ahead of us,” said Joseph.
“We don’t have a single guy with a selfish bone in his body. There is no ego. We’re all at some stage in our development as humans to be selfless and play hard.”