We don’t normally cover junior international tournaments here at RR, but I figured today was a worthy cause to expand our Canada Basketball coverage beyond the major senior men’s events. Because what a day it was for basketball in Canada – For the first time since 1936, Canada played in the gold medal game in an Olympic or World Cup event.
Canada 79, Italy 60 | Box Score
Coming off of the heels of a rousing upset of the United States on Saturday, in which R.J. Barrett led the 20-point underdogs with a ridiculous 38-13-5 line, Canada took on Italy, themselves having upset Spain in their semi-final, for the Under-19 FIBA World Cup. Canada entered as an 11-point favorite despite their roster missing several key names for the tournament. Consider it a nod to the depth of the Canadian program right now and an acknowledgment of the All-Tournament performances of Barrett and Abu Kigab.
Incredible performance for Canadian star RJ Barrett in a victory over USA at the U19s – 38 PTS (12-for-24), 13 REBS, 5 AST, 1 TOV in 33 min pic.twitter.com/DliAJAh2eT
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 9, 2017
Roy Rana’s squad felt no hangover from their enormous win a day prior, given a major boost from the return of point guard Lindell Wigginton, who had missed the semi-final with a concussion. Canada wasted no time in asserting any residual momentum, opening up an 18-4 lead in the game’s early minutes. Italy settled in and made it a more reasoned first quarter from there, but the damage had been done with a 14-point lead through a frame, led by seven points from a geeked up Wigginton and some really nice play from Nate Darling for a second day in a row. Canada was everywhere defensively early on and used their energy to build a big lead on the boards at both ends.
Canada’s finishing abandoned them a bit in the second quarter, with a few good looks in close rimming out, but that didn’t really slow things down overall. Barrett continued to lead the team well at the offensive end, Kigab continued his strong play and took over for a stretch, and Danilo Djuricic made a few savvy plays to keep things humming. All the while, Canada’s defense remained intense save for a brief sputter late when they seemed to get a bit complacent, limiting Italy to 36.8-percent shooting through a half, enough to take a 15-point lead into the break.
Rana seemed able to use that shaky close to the half as a teaching tool at the break, and Canada came out looking to end things in the third. With the defense dialed back in, Italy just couldn’t manage clean looks, and they hardly had a chance on the glass. Barrett continued the steady floor generalship alongside Wigginton, Darling stayed hot, and Djuricic was all over the boards. Canada looked a significantly better team by this point, their speed and athleticism just too much for the Italians to keep up with. The lead swelled to 21 entering the final frame, and barring an epic collapse, Canada was poised to cruise to their first gold medal.
— Canada Basketball (@CanBball) July 9, 2017
That’s more or less what they did from there, ultimately winning 79-60, led by another big 18-12-4 game from Barrett, earning him Most Valuable Player honors.
It’s almost impossible to understate the importance of this victory for Canadian basketball. The upset of the U.S. in Barrett’s international coming out party will be what’s remembered most, but securing the country’s first ever gold medal in a major international tournament is an enormous deal. Canadian basketball fans should be proud and excited, and there’s a genuine feeling that this is just the beginning of a generation of talent growth in this country materializing in podium finishes at the international level.
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 9, 2017
Congrats to the young boys big day for Canada baskeball! 🇨🇦
— Brady T Heslip (@bradyheslip) July 9, 2017
— Mark Bayne (@bayner) July 9, 2017
— Kelly Olynyk (@KellyOlynyk) July 9, 2017
— CanBallRay (@CanBallReport) July 9, 2017
Over the last two years, we’ve covered most of the major international events, like Canada’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament and any games involving Raptors at the Olympic or continental championship level. We obviously don’t have the staff or budget to cover every FIBA tournament and age level, but if there’s serious interest, we can try to commit, in the future, to getting a recap up of at least any knockout-stage games of the U-19s. Barrett is a really exciting prospect, and he’s just the tip of the iceberg for the groundswell of talent coming up.
It’s unclear what, exactly, the appetite for this kind of coverage is. This might be a case of just a few hardcores wanting coverage to that level. But if it’s something that’s important to you and you’d like us to try to do more of, please do let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and I’ll try my best to make sure we have at least some coverage.
For those curious, here are the major events still left in 2017 for Canada:
- FIBA U-19 women’s World Cup (July 22-30)
- FIBA women’s AmeriCup (Aug. 6-13)
- FIBA men’s AmeriCup (Aug. 25-Sept. 3)
- FIBA men’s 2019 World Cup qualifier Part 1 (Nov. 24-27)