By JIM MORRIS
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Thursday, June 21, 2018
VANCOUVER -- Head coach Jay Triano believes he has all the right pieces. The task ahead is figuring out how they fit together.
Triano is overseeing a two-day training camp before Canada's national men's basketball team faces China in a pair of games in preparation for its next round of World Cup Americas qualifying.
The first game in the Pacific Rim Basketball Classic will be on Friday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The teams play again on Sunday at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
The series will allow Canada to find its legs before World Cup qualifying resumes with games against the Dominican Republic June 29 at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum and the U.S. Virgin Islands July 2 at Ottawa's TD Place arena.
Among the 15 attending the camp are NBA regulars such as Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat and Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies, plus players from the NBA G-League and teams in Europe. Also attending are highschool stars R.J. Barrett of Mississauga and Andrew Nembhard of Aurora, Ont.
"We have some young players," Triano said after practice on Wednesday. "We have two young kids that are just getting their feet wet with our national team, but they are going to be a part of our program for a long, long time.
"The games here we are going to try to figure out combinations and who can help us when we go back to Toronto for the qualifying games. It will be a little bit of experimentation. At the same time, we are going to try to win games and see who fits."
Olynyk, the seven-foot centre who grew up in Kamloops, said everyone at the camp has proven they can play the game. Now they must get comfortable playing together.
"It just doesn't happen overnight," said Olynyk, who finished his first season of a four-year US$50-million contract with Miami. "A bunch of us have played together before and that helps."
The games will be Barrett's first with the senior team. The 6-foot-7 guard helped lead Canada to an upset win over the United States in last year's FIBA U19 World Cup semi-final en route to a championship.
There is already speculation he could be the top pick in the 2019 NBA draft even before he's played a game with NCAA powerhouse Duke University.
Canada has a 3-1 record in Group D of the American Qualifiers which also consists of the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each team faces the other three teams on a home and away basis with the top three teams from each group advancing to the second round.
Canada can secure first place in the group by beating the Dominican Republic by at least 12 points and scoring a win over the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The next round of qualifying continues with games in September, November and February, 2019.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be played Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, 2019. It will be the largest edition of the tournament with a record 32 participating teams playing 92 games over 16 days.
The last time Canada qualified for the World Cup was 2010.
Andrew Nembhard looks at an earring worn by R.J. Barrett during practice in Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday.
DARRYL DYCK/ THE CANADIAN PRESS