Canada counts on huge pool of players to get to 2019 World Cup

Joel Anthony leads country at Ameri-Cup tournament

Joel Anthony rarely turns down a chance to suit up for Canada.

The 35-year-old from Montreal will lead Canada’s men’s basketball team at the FIBA AmeriCup tournament that tips off Sunday in Argentina, which is preparation for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in China.

“I really do just love the opportunity to represent my country,” said Anthony, a 10-year NBA veteran. “It’s like coming back home. I’m usually in the States so to be able to come back and be with everyone, see old friends, it’s kind of like Thanksgiving. I enjoy it.”

FIBA has completely overhauled the qualifying format for both the World Cup and Olympics, and the new schedule, with games falling smack dab in the middle of the NBA season, calls for some creative personnel moves.

So while Anthony and fellow NBA veteran Andrew Nicholson might be on Canada’s roster in Argentina, they know they’re part of a revolving door of Canadian players, and there’s no telling what the roster will look like if Canada qualifies for the World Cup.

“It’s a reality,” Anthony said. “It’s something that the guys understand. It’s obviously a different format, something no one’s ever seen before so it’s hard to say (whether it will benefit Canada or not). With us, honestly, it could be more difficult because of our presence in the NBA now, and them not being able to play during different parts of the tournament season.”

This FIBA AmeriCup has become merely an exhibition tournament, which no qualifying ramifications. Qualifying for the 32-team World Cup now features a two-round tournament of home and away games. The World Cup, in turn, is a major qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Canada is in Group D in the Americas zone for World Cup qualifying, with first-round games against the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. Canada will host the Bahamas on Nov. 24 in Halifax in their first qualifier.

Roy Rana, Canada’s head coach for both the FIBA AmeriCup and the Halifax game, said the program’s revolving-door of players has bought into the new format.

“Some of this is really just understanding the nature of the new qualifying format, that in itself is a challenge,” said Rana, who coached Canada’s U19 team to a world title last month. “They’re going to have to be invested in a different way because we’re going to have such a larger pool of players available, just as there is for coaches. This has opened a unique opportunity for myself just as it has for some of them.”

Jay Triano remains the men’s head coach, but handed the reins to Rana for upcoming qualifiers because of a conflict with the NBA season. Triano is an assistant with the Phoenix Suns.

“There’s a tremendous amount of trust between us, we have some great basketball conversations,” Rana said of his relationship with Triano. “He’s been really, really good at allowing me to use my own strengths and some of the things I’ve done with teams, and blending in a lot of the things he’s done with his team. It’s all about a community. It’s not about my way, it’s about ‘let’s find the best way.’”

Canada’s first-round World Cup qualifying will see them play at the Dominican Republic on Nov. 27. They’ll be back in action in February with games at the Virgin Islands and Bahamas. The next block of games are next summer, with the top three countries after the first round advancing to the second.

Triano said the new format will take some getting used to, but on the plus side gives players the rare chance to play games at home. Also, the expanding player pool has allowed newcomers such as Ammanuel Diressa, a standout with Rana’s Ryerson Rams team, and Grandy Glaze, who’s toiled in the NBA’s G-League for five seasons, a chance to pull on the Canadian jersey.

“Certainly Grandy Glaze is one that people in Canada aren’t familiar with and just has this unique energy to him and a toughness that will have a major impact on this group,” Rana said. “I’m proud about Manny Diressa… I’ve said over and over I think he’s one of the most talented guards I’ve coached, and I’m happy to see everyone else is seeing that now.”

Canada tips off the FIBA AmeriCup against the Virgin Islands on Sunday, then plays Argentina on Monday and Venezuela on Tuesday. The semifinals are Sept. 2 and the final is Sept. 3.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

BC BUDGET: Fare freeze and free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Widow of avalanche victim sues Golden lodge operator

A woman from Alberta is suing guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

BC Cattlemen’s Association calls for remediation of firebreaks to prevent erosion, spread of invasive species

Other concerns are fencing restoration and repair, and a lack of feed for cattle.

Patrick Brown’s Tory leadership bid fate looms

Brown’s bid to for Tory leadership to be decided on Wednesday

Alberta shrugs off B.C. legal challenge on wine ban

The potential fine Alberta faces for violating free trade rules according to economic development minister

Yelling vulgar slur at reporter not a crime says judge

Judge rules ‘vulgar’ slur against reporter was not a public disturbance

B.C. runner takes silver at Pan American cross-country championships

Tyler Dozzi’s medal pushes U20 Team Canada to gold finish

Most Read