Brooks Brooks enjoys his role as villain-turned-hero. FIBA photo

No way to go but up for Canada

September 11, 2023 Robert Andaya 220 views
Canada fans celebrate the team’s basketball success. FIBA photo

CANADA’s historic bronze-medal finish in the FIBA WorldCup 2023 in Manila could be the beginning of something good, something special in basketball.

Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez certainly thinks so.

“This team was amazing, special, it’s the beginning of something that’s gonna last for a long time,” said Fernandez shortly after Canada brought down the United States, 127-118, in overtime to clinch its first-ever medal in the world’s biggest basketball stage.

The 40-year-old Fernandez, who also works as assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA, believes the performances of his players are proof that they are destined to achieve bigger things.

“From the first guy, all 12 guys came in and worked every day since August 1. They got better at least one percent every day, and they built the identity that we’ve just shown. We can do great things,” added the veteran Spanish coach, who was hired as player develeopment coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers under coach Mike Brown in 2009.

Fernandez said he was happy for Dillon Brooks, who led Canada’s charge in the bronze medal game against the United States with 39 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the three-point area while providing a lot of hustle on the defensive floor.

“I’m really proud of Dillon. This is how it looks when they let Dillon play. It’s not just on the defensive end that he’s the best perimeter defender in the World Cup, offensively he’s been extremely efficient. Not just in this game,”added Fernandez, referring to the 27-year-old, Toronto-born shooting guard of the Houston Rockets.

Oklahoma City Thunder super star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and New York Knicks mainstay RJ Barrett also provided the leadership for the Canadian team, which finished with a 5-2 win-loss record.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 31 points, including the team’s first seven points in the ovetime, 12 assists and six rebounds while Barrett added 23 points, seven rebounds andtwo asissts for Canada. which lost to the United States in all their seven previous World Cup duels.

Two other players — Luguentz Dort and Kelly Olynyk — contributed 11 points apiece for Canada, which finished higher than the United States for the first time in FIBA history.

Asked about the unbelievable four-point explosion of Mikal Bridges that led to the extra period, Fernandez said the players should learn from the experience.

“Today was not perfect. Obviously, we have to learn how to box out on free throws,” explained Fernnadez.

“The resiliency was not perfect as we don’t have a lot of experience in FIBA but I think we’re here showing that we can do great things,” he stressed.

Fernandez said he was happy to finaly come home with a medal.

“I wanna thank two people, very special to me. My wife Kelsey, because when you’re away from home for so long, it’s tough, when you’re coaching in the World Cup and you’re away from home and you miss your kids, so thanks for supporting me. And thanks to coach (David) Blatt. He is like my angel. He’s always there for me,” added Fernandez.

With Canada also assured of a seat in the 2024 Paris Olympics, Fernandez and his Canadian players are expected ot get back to work and get even better.

With NBA superstars Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors expected to join Canada, there’s really no way to go but up.