St. Catherine’s, Canada – Deena Spivak couldn’t hide her own butterflies. “ They are so nervous,” was her assessment during Ecuador’s shoot around before their encounter with the well- oiled hosts from Canada. The subject of her observation were twelve young men from Ecuador. They had arrived on Canadian soil to defend their national pride during a regional tournament in which eight teams converged in St. Catharines. Only four would garnish a place in the upcoming U19 World Championships next year. Unofficially, Spivak was the South Americans’ den mother throughout the tournament – always an ear shot away to assist. Officially she was the team’s attaché – a volunteer assignment given to her by Canada Basketball. Internalizing the pressures of the young players she was asked to oversee, during a week that hosted the region’s elite basketball countries, seemed to be a workplace hazard. “How could I not be nervous,” was Spivak’s retort to the writer’s query. “They are all great kids.”
Ecuador qualified for the FIBA Americas tournament after capturing third place in South America behind Continental powers Argentina and the fast climbing Chileans. The FIBA U18 Americas Championship was the country’s first foray into a FIBA mainstream international basketball event since participating in the 1950 World Championships hosted in Argentina. Basketball has been alive in Ecuador but always shaded away by the national obsession and tribalism of soccer. During times of economic prosperity the Liga Ecuatoriana de Balancesto, Ecuador’s top professional league, was a common stopover for many talented American players and a place to garnish a reasonable pay cheque for Venezuelans, Columbians, Peruvians and Chileans. Recently, the country’s economic struggles have resulted in a brain drain of local talent while many other imported mercenaries are electing to take their talents elsewhere.
For Ecuadorian U18 Head Coach John Escalante, a high school Phys Ed teacher at an American school in Quito who shares his time as a Provincial Head Coach, the task of recruiting 12 of the country’s best young players to compete with some of the planet’s more talented basketball players was daunting. No easy undertaking for a country split into 24 provinces in three distinct racial divides. Escalante , his oversized glasses that consumed his never ending frown and his fiery disposition, looks every part coach , teacher and master tactician. But he takes pride in the fact that all 12 players who represented Ecuador were Ecuadorian by birth right. A few countries in the tournament in St. Catharines had naturalized players who held passports of countries other than the ones they were representing on the hardwood.
Coach Escalante just didn’t drop into coaching overnight. His father was a basketball coach, his uncle coached the game and his brother was once considered the best player in the country. To carry on with the family tradition he has coached the game for 30 years and from all indications he has many more years left on his clipboard. When describing his own coaching philosophy Escalante stated: “straight to the hole with my guards shooting threes to compensate for our size.”
Luis Riascos, a tall lanky wing, has been an anomaly among his Ecuadorian peers. Riascos was verbally offered a scholarship to play in the United States during the South American qualifying in Lima, Peru. For Michael Moncayo it has been a life- long dream to take his impressive guard skills to either an American University or to Europe. While representing Ecuador in St. Catharines the 5’10” Moncayo filled up the box scores with an array of offensive stats and feared no guard on the other side of the ball. Moncayo thrived under the spotlight. The 17 year old Moncayo and his 16 year old brother Mateo formed a significant part of the Ecuadorian team’s back court. Both brothers learned the game during their formative years from their father in Macas, a small agricultural community in the shadows of the rainforest. Basketball was well rooted in this community of just over 19,000 and the elder Moncayo was a basketball coach who shared his wealth of basketball experience with his two sons. Michael started playing competitively at the age of eight while Mateo when he was six years old. Both boys were significant cogs within Club Iccan de Macas, a team that captured a national club title in 2017.
Young Ecuadorian players are identified for national team duty through the ‘intercolegial’, a long high school tournament that is completed throughout each province. From those competitions players are selected by Provincial coaches to compete in national team pools. Provincial coaches further select players as the final group suitable to represent Ecuador. The pool for the U18 team was moved to Quito where they were housed together and trained three to four days a week. Training sessions and scrimmages regularly attracted several hundred onlookers at Julio Cesar Hidalgo Coliseum – one of Ecuador’s two main basketball stadiums. For Coach Escalante he would liked to have seen more resources placed into his team’s preparation. He is concerned that basketball in Ecuador deserves more resources as compared to soccer which always seems to get the attention of the politicians. Escalante reported that basketball is a significant growth activity among young people within Ecuador’s changing sports culture. “Basketball will never overtake soccer as Ecuador’s most popular sport but it is now 2nd in the country,” announced a man who has dedicated his life to seeing basketball get it’s rightly dues. “Kids at all age levels now want to be part of a national team,’” he stated.
Six games in seven days and the boys from Ecuador failed to post a victory as debutants in their FIBA initiation. But the new pioneers from South America certainly left Canadian soil knowing that a return engagement to any FIBA competition is not out of the realm of possibilities for teams representing Ecuador. Their baptism by fire will leave a legacy for young Ecuadorian players to follow.
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.