On Monday, it was Lebanon who fell, 89-67, to Canada in Men’s Basketball. On Tuesday, it was New Zealand falling 90-63. This Friday and Saturday, it will surely be both teams again. Canada stands a good chance of walking away from the three-team Jack Donohue International Classic with the title, in fact.
Yes, these are just exhibition games, tune-ups for something much more important, but Team Canada Basketball has reason to be optimistic nonetheless.
After this four-set of exhibition games concludes on Saturday, they’ll head to Germany for exhibition games on July 9 and 11. These, too, are tune-ups for something greater.
In Greece, from July 15 to July 20, Team Canada Men’s Basketball has the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. It is a goal that eluded this country in 2004, after a 7th place finish in 2000, and one that the FIBA World Rankings don’t feel Canada deserves. Canada is ranked 17th of the 213 ranked countries, and with only 12 teams qualifying for the Olympic tournament, Canada should rightfully be an odd team out.
But that ranking is indicative of an old program, an old coach, an old attitude. Nobody will ever talk negatively about the job Jay Triano did at the helm, but the coaching change to Leo Rautins signalled a new direction for the Canada Basketball program as a whole. Now, with a qualifying tournament at their feet and an Olympic berth in their grasp, it is up to these 12 men to give Canada’s national basketball program new hope.
Today, in light of the exhibition tournament presently going on, I’d like to simply introduce you to the 12 men representing our country. As the qualifiers near closer, rest assured the coverage here at The ODC will be greater and in more detail, as our boys look to topple Korea and Slovenia in group play before heading on to an elimination-style playoffs.
Head Coach Leo Rautins
You may know him more as Chuck Swirsky’s color man on Raptors broadcasts, but Leo has strong basketball pedigree, too. One of the greatest players in Syracuse basketball history, Rautins was the first Canadian ever drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft, going 17th to Philadelphia in 1983. Rautins is the youngest senior men’s national team player in history, playing at age 16, and is in the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
While his coaching experience is limited, this is a man who knows the international game and has a great passion and vision for this squad.
Joel Anthony, PF/C, Miami Heat
Anthony, at 6’9”, 260lbs. and hailing from Montreal, is a bruising combo big-man who burst onto the scene with Miami towards the end of last season. His combination of rebounding and tough defense makes him an imposing presence in the middle.
At the University Of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) he was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, finishing second in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game in his final season. Anthony is one of the leaders on the floor, boasting one of the most impressive skill sets on the team.
Jermaine Anderson, G, Germany
Anderson is a Toronto Native from Eastern Commerce high school. He went from there to Fordham University, where he posted a tidy senior season line of 15.6-3.7-3.4. With 39 games of international experience, he’s one of the more polished players on the team at age 25. He currently plays for the Walter Tigers Tubingen of the German ‘A’ League.
Rowan Barrett, G, France
The oldest player on the team at age 35, Barrett is a true journeyman. Hailing from Scarborough, he played at St. John’s University and had non-roster stints with the Raptors and 76ers before playing in Spain, Argentina, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Italy. He last landed in France, playing with ES Chalon-sur-Saone, and he’ll play the role of de facto veteran on this young squad. He also leads the team in scoring through two exhibition games, a trend that is likely to continue.
Samuel Dalembert, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Obviously, Dalembert is the most recognizable of the bunch here as the only player with more than a year of NBA experience. Sammy D, hailing from Haiti but obtaining citizenship through his time growing up in Montreal, is a scoring and shot-blocking threat in the middle at 6’11”, 250lbs.
A former 1st round pick, Dalembert has grown into a serious double-double threat at the NBA level, averaging 10.5-10.4 last season with 2.3 blocks per game. He should be the most impactful player and defensive backbone for this team, as few teams have centers that can bang with the Seton Hall product.
Carl English, G/F, Spain
You may remember that I had the chance to interview Carl a while back, and his message shone through clearly – this team is ready to compete, and he’s ready to help lead the way. One of the best scoring options on the team (he scored 18 against Lebanon), the Patrick’s Cove, NFLD native may also be one of the most experienced players. He has had tryouts with Indiana and Seattle after a career at Hawaii University, and now leads the way for Spain’s Kalise Gran Canaria.
Olu Famutimi, G/F, Arkansas Rim Rockers
Famutimi, a Toronto native out of the University of Arkansas, is still just 24 years old and still has NBA hopes after a strong season in the D-League (11.5-5.4-1.7).
Famutimi probably shouldn’t have left Arkansas after just one year of college, missing opportunities with Philadelphia and San Antonio afterwards, but his game and attitude are such that he should eventually be noticed by NBA teams. This tournament marks a platform for him, so look for him to have more great showings like his Player of the Game performance against the Tall Blacks.
Levon Kendall, PF/C, Greece
Everyone’s favorite Pittsburgh Panther, Kendall is a Vancouver native that presently towers over the opposition with Panionios BC in Greece. Kendall, 6’10”, has played for the national team for over five years now, based primarily on his strong play at Pitt, where he averaged 5 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Kendall once dropped 40-points in an Under-21 game against the U.S., and though he won’t be relied upon that heavily in this tournament, his wealth of experience with the international game should be helpful.
Tyler Kepkay, G, University of Utah
One of the more intriguing players on the team because he’s still in the NCAA, the Vancouver native made some noise with 7.5 points a night at Utah last season. Freshly turned 21, Kepkay is the youngest player on the team and was likely the 12th man on this roster, but he should see plenty of time in the exhibition bouts to prove his worth. Oh yeah, and he idolizes and models his game after Steve Nash. Not a bad role model, I guess.
Juan Mendez, F, Israel
You may remember Mendez from his NCAA tourney run with Niagara from a few seasons ago, and many hoped he’d be the next Canadian in the NBA. The Montreal native didn’t achieve that goal, but has spent three seasons in Greece and Israel honing his game, looking to improve a resume that sees him as one of just 99 players in NCAA men’s history with 2000 points and 1000 rebounds. Mendez’ scoring and rebounding will be important for the team, especially against Slovenia in the first round of the qualifying tournament.
Andy Rautins, G, Syracuse
Leo’s son, Andy is technically from New York but holds citizenship anyways. Coming off an ACL injury sustained in the Tournament of the Americas in 2007, Rautins is looking to get his game back before his senior season at Syracuse. Don’t think Andy’s here just because Dad is the coach, though, as he’s been a member of the team since 2005 and has shown strong 3-point range at the college level. If Rautins is healthy, his scoring and range could be a real plus.
Dave Thomas, F, Australia
One of the only senior members of the team, the 31 year old Thomas plays for the Melbourne Tigers of the Australian League. He has an NCAA Championship from Michigan State and a Best Defensive Player award from the Aussie League, meaning this Brampton native should mesh well with the defensive-oriented front court this team boasts.
Jesse Young, F, Spain
The 28 year old Peterborough native spent this past season toe to toe with Carl English in the Spanish ACB league, playing for MMT Estudiantes. He played at George Mason University for four years (before the Cinderella hype), where he averaged 14.6-8.4 and 11.6-8.5 in his last two years. At 6’10”, he is another big body with loads of international experience to throw in the mix for Canada, should he crack the rotation.
Aaron Doorenakmp, F, Carleton
Not on the 12-man roster, Doornekamp apparently played in the JDIC match against New Zealand Sunday (I didn’t have a box score to confirm at the time of writing). Doorenkamp would have the distinction of being the only CIS player on the team, though I believe he’s still expected to be on the reserve roster come tournament time.
Technically, he’s done four years, so I’m not sure he’s still officially a player for the Carleton Ravens, but as the reigning CIS Player of the Year, rest assured he could contribute if needed.
If these first two games have been any indication, you can expect Leo Rautins to go a little deeper on the bench, with maybe only Young and Kepkay (and Doornekamp) not playing certain games. Obviously the roles could change, but look for Barrett, English, and Famutimi to be the offensive leaders while Dalembert, Anthony, Kendall and the rest of the defensive oriented big men to give Canada one of the strongest interiors in the tournament.
Don’t worry about the thin analysis here, there’s much more to come closer to tournament time!