With a win over the no. 12 ranked Czech Republic this Saturday, the Canadian senior men’s national team will be one win away from qualifying for the Olympics, something no Canadian men’s team has been able to do in the last two decades.
The team is returning six players from the last time they were this close to a spot at the Olympics – the ill-fated 2015 FIBA Americas Championship squad that saw Canada fall to a tough nosed Venezuela team on a questionable foul call with no time remaining on the clock. While members of that team, Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins, have said what they think and talk about, Canada’s head coach Nick Nurse isn’t hearing any comparisons between the teams.
“First of all, I don’t really vibrate on those frequencies, that has really nothing at all to do with this team,” said Nurse. “We just got to play, play together and play as hard as we can. If we do that, the result is the result, there’s nothing else you can do.”
The semi-finals will bring Canada its toughest size match-up yet with former NBA player Jan Vesely leading the way in the frontcourt alongside fellow seven-footer Ondrej Balvin. Vesely’s most memorable moment in the NBA may be the infamous smooch after being selected sixth in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he’s experienced a career resurgence since leaving the association, winning the Turkish League and Turkish Cup three times, winning the EuroLeague Championship in 2017 and being named the EuroLeague MVP in 2019.
The Czech Republic is bringing a formidable guard duo to the table as well. Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky and BK Opava’s Jakub Sirina are both averaging 17 points through the first two games of the tournament. Having battled Satoransky in the NBA, Powell knows just what he’s up against on Saturday.
“He’s a skilled veteran guard, he knows how to play, obviously knows how to play in the league but also has a lot of international experience so we really have to focus in on him and all their guys,” said Powell. “He’s a great player, we’ll be focused on him for sure.”
The Canadian’s took advantage of having Thursday off and put their scouts to work as both Uruguay and the Czech Republic remained possible matchups until the final buzzer that night when the Czech’s earned their spot in the semifinals with an 80-79 victory according to Nurse who is looking to put Canada in a position to succeed during this pressure packed weekend.
“I’m trying to prepare them the very best that I can, and we’ve done that since day one of camp,” said Nurse. “I’m going to go out here in a minute and put the best game plan I can together and put the best tweaks to some offensive things that I can together.
1st SEMI FINAL CAN VS. CZECH REPUBLIC Game time: 4:05pm EST. on CBC and DAZN
2nd SEMI FINAL TURKEY VS. GREECE Game time 7:35pm EST. on Livebasketball.TV and DAZN