The Canadian men’s basketball team will take on some stiff competition as it prepares for the 2010 FIBA world championship.
The national squad will play a pair of exhibition games against France on Aug. 12-13 in Toronto.
Canada will then head to Europe to take on powerhouse teams like Spain, Greece and top-ranked Argentina ahead of the world championships. It will be a tough test for the young roster, one that will likely be similar to the team that finished fourth at last year’s FIBA Americas qualifier.
“Our sense is that this team has reached a level of maturity despite its youth — that it can handle this,” said Canada Basketball executive director Wayne Parrish.
There could also be some NBA veterans in the mix.
Head coach Leo Rautins said it’s possible that San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner and Miami Heat centre Jamaal Magloire could play. And while it’s a longshot, Rautins said Steve Nash is always welcome.
“He knows the door is open,” Rautins said. “We kind of wait for the right time to make a decision if this is something he’s going to be involved in or not.”
Nash, of Victoria, is coming off a solid regular season and an excellent post-season, although his Phoenix Suns came up short in the Western Conference final against the L.A. Lakers.
Rautins said he won’t pressure Nash at all and will respect his decision either way.
“The one thing I can give him is the best group he’s ever played with,” Rautins said. “And that would hopefully translate into the best shot in ever winning a medal with this country. So I hope that’s something that’s enticing. But I completely respect the fact that whatever he decides, he’s put in his years.
“He’s put in a lot of great years for this country. He doesn’t owe us, we owe him.”
Bonner, an American who married a Toronto woman he met while playing for the Raptors, has filed for Canadian citizenship. Rautins said the paperwork could be finalized in the coming weeks. He added that Magloire, a Toronto native, has also expressed an interest.
“We’ve had ongoing talks over the years and he’s been excited about what he’s seen,” Rautins said. “So that’s still a possibility.”
Canada Basketball is planning a mini-camp in July and a full training camp before the games against No. 15 France at the Air Canada Centre.
After that, Canada — currently 19th in the FIBA basketball rankings — will play in the Greece Acropolis tournament against the fourth-ranked host team, fifth-ranked Serbia and No. 20 Slovenia. The Efes Pilfen Cup tournament in Ankara will go a few days later. Canada will meet world No. 1 Argentina, No. 18 Turkey and No. 24 Lebanon.
The 2010 FIBA world championships begins Aug. 28 in Turkey. Canada is in a group with defending champion Spain, France, Lebanon, Lithuania and New Zealand.
The exhibition series against France — dubbed the 2010 Jack Donohue International Classic — will mark the first time the Canadian team has played on home soil since 2008.
It’s also the first time that the French national men’s team will play in Canada.
The Jack Donohue International Classic is titled after Canadian coaching legend, Jack Donohue. The tournament honours his tremendous contributions to the game in our nation and abroad. Donohue coached the Canadian Senior Men’s National Team from 1972 to 1988 leading them to a fourth place finish in the 1976 Olympics, a sixth place finish in the 1988 Olympics and a gold medal at the 1983 World University Games. Donohue was among the top Canadian coaches of all time and a pioneer in Canada basketball history.