Team Canada Outshines US Virgin Islands at TD Place

Photo credit: Freestyle Photography

R.J. Barrett charged up the floor on a fast break in the second quarter, flanked on his right by fellow Canadian Kelly Olynyk. The defense keyed-in on Barrett, forcing him to make a quick decision. The decision was a good one; a behind-the-back pass to Olynyk that ended in a monstrous slam. The crowd at TD Place Arena shot to its feet in excitement.

The Canadian national basketball team defeated the US Virgin Islands 99-69 Monday afternoon in Ottawa, a fitting end to the Canada Day long weekend. Olynyk and Phil Scrubb led the way with 14 points each and Cory Joseph contributed with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

“We have been a young international team but now we are starting to reach our prime,” said Team Canada head coach Triano after the game.

The game concluded the first round of Americas Qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Canada finishes the round of qualifiers with a record of 5-1 and a first-place spot in their group.

The matchup developed into a blowout in the second half, but remained close at its start. The Virgin Islands’ players shot well in the first quarter and trailed by only four points heading into the second.

“We made a little bit of an adjustment after the first quarter and I think we were a lot better defensively. We give them credit; they made shots at the beginning,” said Triano.

The Canadian lead ballooned to 21 points early in the third quarter and Canada rolled from there on out.

NBA players were ineligible for the first two windows of qualifying games, but were available for the final two games this past week. The Canadian team features a multitude of NBA talent, including Olynyk (Miami Heat), Joseph (Indiana Pacers), Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies) and Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks),

However, the focus of the team’s qualifying games in Toronto and Ottawa has been squarely on an 18-year-old still at least a year away from his NBA initiation.

Barrett, a Mississauga-native, is the experts’ consensus pick to be selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. He first joined the team for last week’s Pacific Rim Basketball Classic against China and stayed on for the Americas Qualifiers. This is not the first time however that Barrett has donned the red and white. Last summer at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, Barrett led Canada to a gold medal, stunning the U.S. team in the semifinals along the way.

“It’s been great. A lot of experience for me especially with going into college [this year],” said Barrett.

Barrett finished with 13 points against the Virgin Islands. Following his time with the national team, Barrett will join the exalted Duke University basketball program in the fall under the tutelage of legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The top three teams from each group will now advance to the second round of Americas Qualifiers. Canada, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands now await the second round of qualifying, where they will matchup with the qualifying teams of Group B (Brazil, Venezuela and Chile).

Canada has not qualified for a FIBA World Cup since 2010. When asked about the potential of this team representing Canada at the World Cup or Olympics in the near future, Joseph says they have the potential to do so.

“The last couple of years we didn’t get the results we wanted so we just have to focus on that and keep going,” said Joseph.

Each team in Canada’s group (Group D) had to play against one other both at home and on the road, with every Canadian-hosted game taking place in a different city. Canada tallied victories in Halifax last November and Toronto last Friday before making the trip to the nation’s capital.

The road to qualifying for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China will continue for Canada in September.