The Senior Men’s National Team picked up a dominant 94-46 victory against the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday. The victory moved Canada to 4-0 in group play and leaves Canada as the lone undefeated team in Group C at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers.
“It was a big challenge for our team,” Team Canada coach Nate Bjokrgren said. “We played a real physical, hard-fought game last night against the Dominican Republic. For the guys to turn around and play again today here at 3 o’clock against another feisty team, our guys just did such a great job of approaching these two games. Their approach to game one and then obviously today’s game, the approach that they had, the relentlessness that they had in how they were attacking, it’s really fun to watch this group play. It’s fun to watch them play defence and share the basketball. “
With the win, Canada advanced to the Second Round of competition with two more games of the First Round to be played in July.
“We’re pleased but we look to the future,” Kyle Wiltjer said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. I’ve been to the World Cup and it’s an incredible event. We want to get back there. All hands are on deck trying to get there. And then in the end we want to go to the Olympics as well. We have big goals as a program and this is the time to do it so we’re focused.”
Canada was led by a 24-point performance from Wiltjer, as well as 13 points from Trae Bell-Haynes, 12 points from Aaron Best, and 11 points from Thomas Scrubb. Wiltjer scored his 24 points in just 21 minutes, making 8-of-13 shots, including six three-pointers.
Kyle Alexander (C0urtesy FIBA/Canada Basketball)
“We’ve got an amazing group,” Wiltjer said. “We’ve played together before, but moments like these, it kind of goes back to, first of all, my wife at home, I’ve got a newborn baby, so she allows me to play in games like this and travel away from them, these moments wouldn’t be possible without that support.”
“It starts with this guy to my right, Coach [Bjorkgren] and Coach Nurse have an incredible system,” Wiltjer said. “It takes the pressure off of us players and we just make reads. We have a program where it doesn’t matter who is scoring, who is doing what, we have an unselfish team. For myself, when I get in a rhythm, the basket feels really big and I just try to be aggressive and I try to score and do what I do well.”
“At halftime, we talked about [there being] 20 minutes to go in this game against the U.S. Virgin Islands, how we wanted to come out and set the tempo in the second half and play our defence,” Bjorkgren said. “And they did. They’re extremely active, extremely intelligent, so much fun to coach, and it is an honour. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The fourth quarter started like the third, as Aaron Best connected on a three to open the scoring. A layup from Owen Klassen extended Canada’s lead to 40, 70-30, with nine minutes remaining and Canada rolled to the victory from there.
“I mention the approach with this team a lot,” Bjorkgren said. “Their focus, their edge that they bring into every practice, every game, you can really feel it out here. They’re always down to business and want to win and do it in the best way possible.
Next up for Canada will be the third window of First Round play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers, with two games to be played in July.
Courtesy Canada Basketball