It’s the eleventh and final day of the Senior Men’s National Team camp at the Air Canada Centre practice court. Tristan Thompson’s 6’9”, 227-pound frame is saturated in sweat. Even the shoelaces on his Nike Zoom Soldier VII’s are covered with a thin layer of perspiration after the two and a half hour practice. “Tristan goes so hard every practice,” says head coach Jay Triano. “He’s taken a leadership role as far as performance, but he’s also taken it by the way that he practices every day. He doesn’t back away from any drills, he doesn’t back away from any challenges. That’s the type of person you want leading your team.”
Concluding each practice, Thompson spends another half hour working with Cleveland Cavaliers shooting coach Dave Love, rebuilding his stroke. For a change, or possibly due to an interview obligation, Thompson is finished on the court for the day. He works out with Love twice daily, with the earlier and longer session prior to team practice, transitioning from a left-handed shooter to a right-handed one.
While Thompson didn’t shoot with Love, best believe form and mechanics came up in the course of conversation during their walk back to the hotel. In Thompson’s two seasons in the NBA, his shooting percentages were .471 from the field and .586 from the free throw line, hardly stellar numbers for a top four NBA Draft pick. The Brampton native is well aware of this, which is why he is driven to improve.
“When they look back on the 2011 draft,” Thompson says, “No disrespect to my teammate Kyrie Irving, but I want to be looked at as the hardest working and number one pick of that draft.”
While Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson may also take umbrage with Thompson’s proclamation, what’s not up for debate is his unwavering commitment and determination to succeed. Outwardly, Thompson is soft-spoken and personable with an engaging smile and though he isn’t much for fanfare, he doesn’t shy away from it either. If you take a closer look you can understand why he makes his draft claim with unflinching sincerity.
It’s evident prior to tip off in Toronto at the 2013 Jack Donohue Classic versus Jamaica. Thompson is locked in, overwhelmingly focused during the national anthems prior to tip-off, taking the friendly match very seriously. He later rallied the Canadian team to victory with 16 points, 10 rebounds and game MVP honours. Against Venezuela at the FIBA Americas tournament his tenacity again shone through, where he snatched a game-high 20 rebounds and adding 12 points in a close 64-59 loss.
Thompson’s game clearly elevates when he wears the red, white and black. “Any time you put the flag on your chest it’s a big deal,” he says. “It’s more than representing a school, or a city, or a team – you’re not only representing your family but your country. As a kid you dream of getting a chance to wear Canada across the front of your jersey.” Thompson is no stranger to representing Canada, having played in the Nike Global Challenge and on both the Canadian Under-18 squad (earning a bronze), and the Junior Men’s National team.
There was a time when basketball players were more than content to let their hopes of playing for Canada go as a dream unfulfilled. Unfortunately the program floundered as it lacked competitiveness, structure and organization. Steve Nash and Rowan Barrett have since come on board to steer the Senior Men’s program in a new direction, and Thompson has no issues captaining that ship if called upon.
“I know we don’t have a lot of senior NBA leaders on this team,” he states. “But I try to be a vocal leader on this team and lead by example. There’s a lot of great young players in the program and we’re the future of Canada Basketball.”
With the upcoming crop of young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Nik Stauskas, Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk in addition to the current SMNT (Senior Mens National Team) roster, the future is promising.
While Bennett went number one in this year’s draft, it was only two years ago that Thompson was selected fourth overall, starting the Canadian NBA invasion. Now, at the ripe old age of 22, he will be viewed as a role model and leader for those to follow. Roy Rana, head coach at Ryerson University who also coached Thompson at the Nike Global Challenge is in full agreement.
“It’s not just because of where he got drafted, I think it’s a lot about who he is. He’s a character kid and very supportive of all the young guys behind him. He’s really engaging. People just gravitate to him and he’s got a big personality.”
On the court, Thompson’s strengths are obvious with his athleticism, strong rebounding and ability to run the floor. He started all 82 games for the Cavaliers last season and averaged 11.7 points and 9.7 rebounds, finishing 9th overall in the league with 773 rebounds. Although his offensive game is lacking with limited moves in the post and the aforementioned shooting percentages, he’s turning into a double-double player. Nonetheless, he’s working with Love on his shot and working very hard at it. No one is expecting him to turn into the next Karl Malone, but there are expectations for him to deliver.
“I think the Canadian team is a great opportunity for him to evolve as a leader,” says David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers Vice President of Basketball Operations.
“It’s probably been a little bit of time since Tristan was expected to be ‘the man’ on a team. It’s good for him to play with that responsibility night in and night out and consistently be counted upon. Because sometimes on our team, Kyrie (Irving) or Dion (Waiters) can get rolling offensively, and you really don’t have to work that hard on that end. I like the fact he has to carry the mail a little bit there.”
The late Hall of Fame coach Jack Donohue has an oft-quoted expression, “There are two ways to represent your country, in war and in sport.” Sometimes the two can be one and the same, as Canada faced Argentina at the FIBA Americas Championship, in a hard fought, must-win game, with the winner qualifying for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Thompson had the unenviable task of covering the crafty veteran Luis Scola, who has won the last three consecutive MVP awards at this tournament, and the Canadian didn’t back down. Scola contributed 28 points and seven rebounds, yet more importantly carried the team on his back when they were down. The 6’9” Argentine scored 10 straight points in a decisive 20-6 run during the third quarter, shifting the momentum in his squad’s favour, which they never relinquished.
Canada lost 63-57 and Thompson, defeated, fatigued and drenched with sweat, was forced to watch the Argentinean celebration at centre court.
“I care about how I’m remembered,” Thompson says. “I want people to look back and say that Tristan Thompson was a leader and a hard worker. Someone that didn’t quit and was one of the best.”
The Canadian defeat didn’t come from lack of talent or effort, but from lack of experience, something that Thompson in his young career has all the time to amass. He’s made no secret that he’s willing to put the blood, sweat and tears into his game and if that’s what Canada Basketball has to look forward to from their young leader, one with an incredible drive and work ethic, then the future of the program is indeed bright.
Canada vs. USA focal point of loaded Pre-FIBA World Cup series
Canada’s senior’s men’s basketball team will take on the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria in a loaded preseason FIBA World Cup schedule.
For many years Canadian’s have been waiting for the day that Canada’s golden basketball generation faced off against the mighty USA Dream Team.
Well, wait no longer, and bookmark Monday, August 26, 2019 your calendar.
Part of a five-game per-world cup series in Australia — Team Canada will wrap it’s six-game FIBA World Cup exhibition schedule with a much anticipated match-up against American’s.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to compete and gain familiarity against some of the top teams in the world in preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019,” said Rowan Barrett, Canada Basketball General Manager, Men’s High Performance. “The USA has been the gold standard in FIBA basketball for several years so this will be a great opportunity for our program. In addition, having the chance to play tough road games against Australia and New Zealand will be a valuable experience for our team on the road to the World Cup.”
Canada’s Senior Men’s National team (SMNT) will kick-off it’s pre-world cup festivities on home-soil, on Friday, August 9, 2019 against a rising Nigerian D’ Tigers (10-2, 1st place African Qualifiers) national side in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
From there it’s off to foreign territory as the Canadians get acquainted with the Australia Boomers — a 2019 FIBA World Cup Group of death foe and commonwealth member in a two-game series in Perth on August 16th and 17th.
Previously known for the their alternative nickname — “The Road Warriors” — for their lack of international FIBA home games — Team Canada will shift their attention to a familiar foe with a two-game series against the New Zealand Tall Blacks.
According to the FIBA World Cup draw and if everything works out as planed Canada vs. USA could also become a reality in a potential heavyweight quarter-finals match-up.
With World Cup medal aspirations on the line and a 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics bid up for grabs, Canada will look to field a studded 12-men roster not only capable of fulling the federations 2020 vision of becoming a global basketball powerhouse but eventually reminding our border neighbors and media pundits that “soft and basketball” will no longer be acceptable in the basketball sentence.
Not exactly considered the cream-of the crop international tournaments — Canada’s senior’s men’s basketball team last knocked-off the United States of America 111-108 at the 2015 Pan-Am games in Toronto.
A 2005 FIBA Americas Group A win — culminated by a dominated 28 point, 9-rebound performance from Denham Brown lifted Canada 92-76 past the USA on August, 25, in San Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Canada knocked off the Americans 85-77 in the semi-finals of 1983 Summer Universiade games in Edmonton — beating a star-studded USA (Karl Malone, Charles Barkley) team in the semi-finals.
Team Canada FIBA World Cup international exhibition series
- Canada Basketball vs. Nigeria D’ Tigers – August, 9th 2019 – MTS Place
- Canada Basketball vs. Australia Boomers – August 16, 2019 – RAC Arena, Perth
- Canada Basketball vs. Australia Boomers – August 17, 2019 – RAC Arena, Perth
- Canada Basketball vs. New Zealand Tall Blacks – August 20, 2019, Quaycentre, Sydney
- Canada Basketball vs. New Zealand Tall Blacks – August 21, 2019, Quaycentre, Sydney
- Canada Basketball vs. USA Basketball – August 26, 2019, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Triano steps aside as Canadian national team coach
Jay Triano has officially stepped down as the head coach of Canada’s senior men’s national team.
Canada Basketball made the announcement this morning, confirming media reports that circulated on Sunday.
“I can’t thank Jay enough for all he has done for basketball in Canada,” said Glen Grunwald, president and CEO of Canada Basketball, in a statement.
“As both a coach and player, Jay is a Canadian icon and has played a major role in the development of basketball within our country and we will forever be grateful for his contributions.
“After speaking with Jay, I’m hopeful we can find a role where he can continue to contribute to Canada Basketball in the future.”
Triano is the first Canadian-born and Canadian-trained coach to work in the NBA, starting as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors in 2002 and later promoted to head coach.
He is currently the lead assistant coach with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
As head coach of Canada’s national team from 1998 to 2004, Triano led the team to a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Canada has not returned to the Olympics since then, but it figures to be a contender to play at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Triano returned as head coach in 2012, guiding the club to a pair of victories during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers.
As a player, Triano served with Canada’s national team from 1977 to 1988 and was team captain for the final seven years of his tenure.
He was elected to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Ryerson University head coach Roy Rana is among three other candidates being granted interviews to replace Triano, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.
The other candidates are Gord Herbert, who played for Canada at the 1984 Olympics; and Ettore Messina, an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.
A final decision is expected by March 31.
Multiple reports say Triano cited “personal reasons” for taking his name out of the running, but he did not elaborate.
Team Canada’s next major test will be the 2019 FIBA World Cup, starting Aug. 31 in China.
Triano steps aside at a high point in Canadian basketball, with dozens of players in the NBA and at elite NCAA schools, including Barrett’s son R.J. Barrett, a Duke University standout who is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.