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Canada Improve to 2-0 in 2025 AmeriCup Qualifiers

A Perfect Window for Canada's SMNT

FIBA Basketball hardly ever goes according to plan. Just ask the USA, the Dominican Republic and Argentina, who all suffered upset losses to Cuba, Chile and Mexico respectively in this AmeriCup Qualifier window.

And yet, Canada’s “Winter Core” continues to do their job and just win games. Dating back to the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers (the official inception of the “Summer Core” and “Winter Core” idea), the “Winter Core” is a staggering 9-1, with the only loss coming against a full-strength Argentine squad in Argentina. Nate Bjorkgren, who has coached all 10 games, deserves an immense amount of praise for the job he’s done turning the “Winter Core” into a well-oiled machine. He’s been a bedrock of consistency and the continuity he’s established in offensive schemes and defensive coverages is truly vital to the success of the SMNT moving forward. Shoutout to Phil Scrubb and Kalif Young as well who have suited up in all 10 of the games as well. True SMNT warriors.

After a slow start to the Monday night matchup against Nicaragua, Canada’s small ball unit of Kaza Kajami-Keane/Kadre Gray/Phil Scrubb/Aaron Best/Thomas Kennedy put down a 16-0 run to give Canada a 20-10 cushion late in the 1st quarter. Canada would never relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.

Jackson Rowe and Aaron Best once again led Canada’s offense, scoring 19 and 16 apiece. However, Canada didn’t quite find the same success from beyond the arc they had in the 1st matchup in St. Catharines. Hitting just 10 3’s on the night, Canada laboured to a 24.4% 3P% on the night.

Instead, the SMNT continued to find success on the defensive side of the ball. Holding Nicaragua to just 51and 46 points (the 2nd and 3rd lowest scoring outputs of any team in this Qualifier Window) is an incredible defensive feat, even if Nicaragua is one of the weaker teams in the region. Canada was also able to force a combined 53 turnovers, leading to a whopping 50 points in transition.

Canada now sit in sole possession of 1st place in Group C, with a ridiculous +87 point differential. The next window in late November 2024 sees the SMNT match up against the remaining teams in Group C in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Those games should be a lot more competitive and Canada will need to bring in some of the higher level Euro pros (think Kyle Alexander, Kyle Wiltjer, etc.) as reinforcements to inch closer to qualifying for the 2025 AmeriCup.