It’s a fact that athletes are not big fans of training camp. In fact, professional athletes aren’t big fans of practice in general.
They realize its importance, but it’s not nearly as exciting as playing the game in real competition. That’s what really gets them going.
With no international competition in sight, one might assume it would be hard to get 27 basketball players to get excited about two-a-day practices for five straight days, but after Canada Basketball’s big announcement Thursday, this was certainly not the case.
After press conference lights were turned off and the suits and matching ties were exchanged for sneakers and ball shorts, the dust from the front office shake-up finally settled and head coach Jay Triano and general manager Steve Nash were left with a big group of talented young athletes, bursting with renewed energy towards their national program.
“I’m just excited. Excited to be here, excited to work with these guys. This is really what this program needs,” said Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat. “The infusion of the young talent that we have … it’s definitely the time to bring that into the program, and I’m just excited to have this kind of turnout.
Anthony has more experience with the NBA and national program than most on the camp roster, but during a break from Friday’s practice, he spoke about how even the most experienced athletes have something to gain from this camp.
“… I feel we’re putting a good foot forward with this camp right now,” he said.
With almost every recognizable face from the last two decades in Canadian basketball present, the gym felt more like a summer camp than a grueling training session. Old faces and new faces were all egging each other on, clapping and hollering at each other as if they’d all been playing together for years.
“It was phenomenal first day, and it’s great to see all these faces in the gym. It definitely takes time, but as you can see, we have every (Canadian) NBA player we have out here, so it’s amazing,” said Nash.
“You know, they’re out here busting their butt, trying to get better, encouraging each other, there’s no attitudes or prima donnas. Everyone realizes this is an opportunity we want to give them to get better, to improve their games, and to play for their country,” he added.
Even though the atmosphere was relatively light, both Triano and Nash stressed the importance of this weekend in terms of development.
“This is the most talent Canada has ever had in a gym at one time, and I think we get to build a relationship with them number one, make them better individually, and start the process of teaching them what it’s going to be like to play for your country,” Triano said. “We’re going to build on it from this summer, and we’re going to build on it as this week goes.”
When asked if he was surprised by the impressive turnout this weekend, San Antonio Spurs forward Tristan Thompson was enthusiastic.
“After watching the Olympics, myself personally, I was kind of sick to my stomach. I wanted to be part of it,” Thompson said. “I want to compete for a medal, and I think that’s the same thing the other guys are thinking, so I’m not surprised everyone showed up and everyone’s working hard.
“If you look at the roster, and who showed up, I mean, all the top players right now that are Canadian are here right now so, it’s great for our country, and I’m excited. You guys should be excited too,” he added with a grin.
Excited — that was the word of the day. The sentiment was palpable, as there was an energy inside the gym that several people there said they hadn’t felt within the program in years.
Important change within Canadian basketball has definitely begun, and players and coaches alike are eagerly embracing it.