Canada’s men’s basketball team faces a mammoth task to get to this summer’s Rio Olympics.
But coach Jay Triano says he’s happy his team has a second chance at all.
The Canadians will have to knock off No. 5-ranked France and No. 8 Turkey to get to Rio — of the 18 countries trying to qualify, those are the top-two ranked.
"We’re happy to be going anywhere, and every side of the draw was going to be tough, every team in there has the same goal as we have," Triano said on a conference call Tuesday. "There’s not a lot you can do about it, there’s not a lot you can stress about it, you’ve got to get ready to play games now."
Eighteen teams were drawn into three last-chance tournaments with six countries each, with the winner of each earning an Olympic berth.
The 26th-ranked Canadians will play in Manila, July 4-10, where they’ll also face New Zealand (21), host Philippines (28), and Senegal (31).
Triano was happy to avoid the tournament in Serbia where he said facing that host country would have been extremely tough.
The Canadians, who are looking to make their first Olympic appearance since the 2000 Sydney Games, saw their Olympic dreams dwindle at the FIBA Americas tournament in September. A victory at the event in Mexico City would have locked up an Olympic spot. After losing their opener to Argentina, the Canadians rolled to seven straight easy victories before they were upset by Venezuela 79-78 in the semifinals. Venezuela went on to win the tournament, while Canada finished third.
Triano has watched the semifinal a couple of times since, and called it a "perfect storm."
"We had them up against the shot clock three possessions in a row, they made a three falling into their bench, they get fouled with two tenths of a second to go, we slip on the court on the logo at midcourt, we missed layups, we missed shots," he said.
There were positives to take out of the tournament, Triano said. Analytics has shown, for example, that Canada had one of the best offences in the world last summer.
"I look back at the whole thing… through the experience hopefully we’re better because of that," Triano said.
Triano can’t say what players might be available for the qualifier. Free agency, which begins July 1, will be a major factor — insurance becomes an issue when players don’t have signed contracts.
"Everybody that we’ve talked to has expressed an interest," Triano said. "I think the big thing, and it’s not just us, but every country that has NBA players is going to have some challenges with the players that are free agents this summer… the same goes for France, same goes for Turkey as well."
Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa, both former Toronto Raptors, did the drawing at the House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland.
The Canadian women won their FIBA Americas tournament in Edmonton to earn a berth in Rio.