The final road to Rio for Canada’s basketball team was unveiled on Tuesday, with the men’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament schedule.
The qualifying tournament in Manila, Philippines will be the nation’s last shot at qualifying for Rio 2016. Despite a heartbreaking loss to Venezuela in the FIBA Americas championship semifinals, the team is intent on qualifying for this summer’s Olympic Games. The 26th ranked Canadians will play in Group A of the tournament against number eight Turkey and no. 31 Senegal.
“We’re looking forward to Manila. It didn’t matter where or who we ended up against, the goal is to qualify,” said Olympian and head coach of the men’s team Jay Triano .
In order to qualify Canada must finish first or second in Group A. The top two teams of each round will advance to the semifinals, winners will then head to the final where the champion – hopefully Canada – will earn a ticket to Rio.
“We’ve got work to do, this will be a tough tournament with a lot on the line, but we want to represent the red and white in Rio this summer.” said Toronto Raptors’ guard Cory Joseph, in a Canada Basketball press release.
Joseph was the 2015 men’s team captain and one of Canada’s National Basketball Association (NBA) stars on the national team. With the tournament schedule set, the biggest question for fans is whether or not NBA players will join the team after a long season.
“Inexperience was a huge factor in last summer’s results. It was heartbreaking, but it allowed us to grow as a team,” shared Olympian and general manager of the men’s national team, Steve Nash.
Last summer Canada felt the impact of having NBA players like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Melvin Ejim and Andrew Nicholson on the team and their return could be pivotal to its success. However, returning is a physically demanding commitment for many players, whose NBA season lasts approximately six months, excluding preseason training and competitions. Then there’s the issue of NBA teams feeling comfortable with letting players go with the possibility of injuries.
Although Canada Basketball has yet to announce its team, athletes selected will depart for training and pre-tournament exhibition games in June, before officially starting their final run at an Olympic berth on July 5.