On the world juniors and some old comedy stuff
So, what about this Canadian junior men’s team that starts the world championships in Latvia on Friday?
Not a bad group at all, some excellent young talent, some kids missing, of course, but a Top Eight finish in the world isn’t out of the realm of possibility and it’s another step on the revitalization of Canada in the global game.
Coach Greg Francis was e-mailing yesterday from Latvia and while he wouldn’t load up on expectations – he’s as much about process leading to results – there was a sense of optimism.
He says he’s got some good shooting with Julian Clarke (whose dad Norm was a national-team staple back in the 80s) and Phil Schrubb, coming off a CIS championship last spring and point guard Kevin Pangos may be one of the best at his age anywhere. Kid by the name of Dyshawn Pierre is a “dynamic” player, the coach said, but the most important thing:
“We try to focus on one game at a time but our team has some international experience and success. We are a tough match up for most teams here so our goal is to advance to each round as it comes. If we can get to the quarter-finals than I think we can make a run at the World Championships.”
That’s the big thing. What Canada Basketball has done in the last six or seven years really is remarkable. They put programs in place that got the youngest kids outstanding exposure to the international game and, sure, they may have taken their lumps at times but the benefits they’ve reaped have been huge.
Sure, they’d love to have the likes of Khem Birch or Kyle Wiltjer or Myck Kabongo but there are other commitments – school mainly – that make that impossible and it’s forever thus here in Canada.
But all those times these kids have gone to world events makes it a bit easier to handle, Francis said.
“We have some athletes that had school commitments but we have a bigger talent base to choose from than we did even 6 years ago. I would love to have every player in the age group available for this competition but I also know that our team is deep enough to compete for a gold medal.”
I don’t expect the country to challenge for a gold medal at every significant competition it enters but the progression has been steady and we’re no longer a global afterthought.
The juniors are in a first-round group with Korea, Croatia and Lithuania and the top three move on to a second-round and from there the quarter-finalists are determined.
We’ll track ‘em as well as we can here through the process.
Speaking of the world juniors …
Jonas Valanciunas goes for 23 and 11 and Lithuania drills the USA in an Under-19 exhibition and I’m thinking, ‘well, what if this kid can play?’
If that’s the case, I absolutely cannot wait until 16 months or so from now when I can sit here and post all kinds of comments like:
“Yeah, sorry, Doug. It was truly a rush to judgement way back on draft night. Should have listened to those who said picks are a crapshoot and no one knows for sure how they’ll turn out but that Jones was really highly regarded.”
“Oops. Maybe the guy with the multiple Executive of the Year awards knew what he was talking about. I apologize.”
“Hey, Idiot. You’re still a Pollyanna-ish homer and I hate you with every fibre of my being. But thanks for the blog, I read it every day.”
Yeah, can’t wait.
So, me and TOD at Fenway on Monday afternoon and Tuesday and Wednesday nights?
Lucky, lucky readers.
Yeah, a scheduling snafu somehow has no one who, you know, writes about the game actually able to write about the game so they’re bringing in the aged lefty from the ‘pen.
I’ll fool ‘em with my giro ball or something like that.
And fool the regular seamheads into thinking I know how to write game.
Now, if someone’s got a primer on the difference between a four-seamer and a cutter, I’m all ears.
You know, I have no idea how Super Son is going to ultimately turn out; you do your best and hope to instill things like respect, tolerance, fairness and self-confidence into their personalities and hope it works.
But, I tell ya, when a fella of a certain age wanders into the home after a long day and hears the young guy and Super Wife doing this schtick, I’m thinking we’re on the right path:
You’re that tricky land shark, aren’t you?
No, ma’am. I’m just a friendly dolphin.
Oh, then that’s okay. I like dolphins.
(Man, I think google ought to cut me a cheque for all the hits I get for ‘em from young ‘uns here who are totally confused by some items)
Nothing of even marginal interest, actually.
Maybe today or tomorrow.
Know one thing I like about the junior men’s team?
The coaching staff.
You’ve got Greg Francis and Peter Guarasci and Shawn Swords, three guys who’ve played and starred for the country at times and are able to give some context to the kids.
There’s been all kinds of coaching continuity of late, which is a big boon in keeping players connected to the programs with some familiar faces in charge and those three guys needs to be commended for giving back to the program. All three of ‘em were around when times weren’t nearly as good as they are now and could have bailed, or not come back. They didn’t.
This is how Greg put it yesterday when we were e-mailing from Latvia:
“We have experience playing the game at a high level but more importantly we have been coached by Canada's best coaches over the years. We try to give our team the best chance to win while showing them what it takes to have international success at the senior team level.”
It’s getting to be that time of the week.
But we need to cut down the number of questions about free agency this summer. Until we know the system they’ll operate under and what they might be able to afford, it’s really tough, and a bit silly, to talk about specific players.
But click, write and send and we’ll see what we can do.