Meet Team Canada: A FIBA Americas primer

Another monster game for Andrew Nicholson. (AP/Ricardo Arduengo)

On Monday, Canada Basketball announced the final roster for the senior men’s national team that will be heading to the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, a qualifier for next year’s World Cup.

Headlined by young NBA talent such as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph, which will be blended with the veteran savvy of names like Jermaine Anderson and Jevohn Shepherd, Canada’s roster is an interesting mix between the program’s much-anticipated future and holdovers from some of its darkest days.

Expectations for the team are the highest they’ve been since Steve Nash played and they will only grow as more NBA talent filters into the roster in the coming years.

Programming note: Watch all of Canada’s games at the FIBA Americas tournament live on Sportsnet 360 beginning with their opener on Friday vs. Jamaica at 11:3- a.m. ET. Coverage begins on Sportsnet 360 at 11:15 a.m. ET | Full TV Schedule

This FIBA Americas tournament is the first time Canada will be playing in meaningful competition since 2011 and its very important that Canada emerges from it with a qualifying spot in the World Cup as Canada’s core players are very young and international experience is needed if the program expects to compete for a medal in the 2016 Olympics.

The following is a small primer on the 12 men who will don the red and white in Caracas, Venezuela beginning on Friday.

Name: Tristan Thompson
Position: Power forward/centre
Height: 6’9″
Hometown: Brampton, Ont.
2012-13 team: Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)

The Skinny: Thompson is likely the best player on the roster and, more intriguingly, is developing into the de facto leader of this team.

Drafted fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Brampton native is one of the NBA’s most-promising young big men.

Boasting tremendous strength and athleticism, Thompson is a force defensively and should figure to be the key man directing Canada’s touted defence. Offensively, Thompson’s still a little raw but this lefty has been working really hard to develop a right hand and his ability to get up and down the court makes him a very difficult cover in transition.

Name: Cory Joseph
Position: Point guard
Height: 6’3″
Hometown: Pickering, Ont.
2012-13 team: San Antonio Spurs (NBA)

The Skinny: If Thompson is Canada’s best player, Joseph is its most important heading into the tournament.

Strong point guard play is integral to survive the FIBA Americas region as presses and traps are a common site. Joseph will need to find ways to beat these consistently, be it via a pass or just strong ball-handling, just to get over the time line. When he does make it over, he’ll be responsible for initiating a Canadian attack that has struggled to score in the half court.

This is an awful lot for a 22-year-old to take on, but it’s absolutely integral for any hope of Canadian success that Joseph be rock solid. Canada’s poor half-court offence stems from the lack of personnel on the roster that can create their own shots. Joseph is one of the few guys on the roster who can do that and, more valuably, he’s also very capable at opening up juicy scoring chances for his teammates.

Name: Joel Anthony
Position: Centre
Height: 6’9″
Hometown: Montreal
2012-13 team: Miami Heat (NBA)

The Skinny: As one of the only NBA holdovers from the Leo Rautins era, Anthony has plenty of international experience under his belt with legitimate ability as a paint-protecting big.

The Montreal native’s primary role will be similar to what he does for the Heat, block shots, grab rebounds and start fast-break opportunities.
Anthony’s value will be most apparent in late-game situations as his stout interior defence should help to protect Canadian leads.

The Heat centre should also figure to work well with Thompson on both ends of the floor because, on defence, some of the risks that Thompson will take can be mitigated by the more conservative Anthony and, on offence, the pair should rip down their fair share of offensive rebounds as they both crash the offensive glass extremely hard.

Name: Andrew Nicholson
Position: Power forward
Height: 6’9″
Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.
2012-13 team: Orlando Magic (NBA)

The Skinny: Canada’s last NBA member, Nicholson is a key cog in the Canadian attack.

Unlike defensive specialists Thompson and Anthony, Nicholson’s strength lies in his ability to score in a myriad of ways.
Capable of being a traditional power forward, with smooth post moves, as well as a stretch four who can extend opposing bigs out 20 feet from the basket, there’s a lot that Canada can do with him in the half court.

For a team that usually has to grind to get baskets, Nicholson’s offensive versatility will be very important for Canada as he has the potential to force double teams from all over the court, creating opportune scoring chances for his teammates if the ball is swung correctly.

Name: Jermaine Anderson
Position: Point guard
Height: 6’2″
Hometown: Toronto
2012-13 team: TBB Trier (Basketball Bundesliga – Germany)

The Skinny: The oldest member on the team, the man known as “Rock” has known almost only disappointment in his international career.
He will be Joseph’s back up in the tournament and there really is no better man for the job.

Anderson was Canada’s starting point guard for a number of years and he’s become a stabilizing force at the position while learning the job. His vast
international experience is an invaluable resource for Joseph and the rest of Team Canada and his knack for knocking down big shots is also a definite positive for the squad.

Name: Junior Cadougan
Position: Point guard
Height: 6’1″
Hometown: Toronto
2012-13 team: Marquette Golden Eagles (NCAA)

The Skinny: A bit of a surprise to make the cut, Cadougan won’t get a lot of burn but when he does get out there expect to see a lot of energy.
Cadougan will be Canada’s third point guard and as such, the Marquette product will be expected to be a full-throttle change of pace, similar to a third-down running back in football.

His tough and fearless play style makes him a perfect candidate for this wrecking ball role.

This attitude also makes him the best perimeter defender the team has. Although height is an issue, he is a formidable 205 pounds with excellent lateral quickness.
Don’t be surprised if you see him on defence in tight situations.

Name: Aaron Doornekamp
Position: Small forward
Height: 6’6″
Hometown: Odessa, Ont.
2012-13 team: New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig (Basketball Bundesliga – Germany)

The Skinny: Doornekamp enjoys the unique distinction of being the only player on the roster who came from the CIS ranks, leading the Carleton Ravens to championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Doornekamp is a combo forward with range from deep and a nose for the ball on the offensive and defensive boards.
He likely won’t get a lot of playing time but he’s proven himself in international competition in the past while on both the senior and junior teams so he won’t panic if his number is called.

Name: Brady Heslip
Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6’2″
Hometown: Burlington, Ont.
2012-13 team: Baylor Bears (NCAA)

The Skinny: Canada’s major threat from deep, Heslip made this team because he can shoot the lights out.

His size, ball-handling and defence leave much to be desired but that doesn’t matter because few can stroke it like this Burlington native.
In a tournament setting, hot 3-point shooting can absolutely bury a team and in the 2012 NCAA tournament Heslip did just that to the University of Colorado in the round of 32 when he went off for 27 points on nine triples in a Baylor win.

The challenge will be getting Heslip open, but if his teammates can find him a little space, there won’t be any regrets bringing him to Caracas.

Name: Devoe Joseph
Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6’4″
Hometown: Pickering, Ont.
2012-13 team: BC Khimik (Ukraine Superleague – Ukraine)

The Skinny: The older brother of Cory Joseph, Devoe Joseph is a jack-of-all-trades combo guard who will get some rotation minutes, spurring Andy Rautins and Heslip.

An excellent slasher and decent shooter, Joseph’s talents offers intriguing lineups for Canada as he can be brought on to add a little shooting to an otherwise very athletic unit, or a little athleticism to a very perimeter-heavy five.

His name will likely be buried in headlines by his more famous younger brother in the tournament, but Joseph’s versatility is an asset that Canada shouldn’t ignore.

Name: Levon Kendall
Position: Power forward/centre
Height: 6’10”
Hometown: Vancouver
2012-13 team: Obradoiro CAB (Liga ACB – Spain)

The Skinny: Another one of the old guys, Kendall, like Anderson, has gone through the ringer many times for Canada.

Besides his international experience, Kendall brings the most advanced post game on the roster to the table.

Most notably, he’s gifted with an excellent passing ability. Both out of double teams and further inside to his big partner, Kendall can make nifty plays from the block and because opponents must respect his playmaking he can use an array of shot and pass fakes to free himself up for high-percentage buckets.
His one-on-one post defence is good, however his help-side is nowhere near the level of Thompson and Anthony.

Between him, Thompson, Anthony and Nicholson, Canada’s bigs are a definite strength on paper and should be utilized accordingly.

Name: Andy Rautins
Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6’4″
Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.
2012-13 team: Tulsa 66ers (NBA D-League)

The Skinny: A former Syracuse standout and son of Raptors analyst Leo Rautins, Andy Rautins will be playing a different role with this team than in years past.

Officially with the senior team since 2008, Rautins grew into a key offensive piece for Canada. He, along with Carl English, were the focal points in a perimeter heavy attack. Now, with English being cut, and a new crop of NBA talent being filtered in, Rautins’ role has shifted to being just a 3-point specialist.

This is no knock on him as the 3-point shot is very important in the international game and he can just flat-out shoot. With the Tulsa 66ers last year in the D-League, he scorched it from downtown, shooting 56 per cent.

Name: Jevohn Shepherd
Position: Small forward
Height: 6’6″
Hometown: Toronto
Professional team: Paffoni Omegna (Lega Due Silver – Italy)

The Skinny: With Kris Joseph pursuing an opportunity in China, Shepherd is one of the only true swingmen on the roster and his length and athleticism are assets that the team desperately needs.

The Scarborough native is fantastic in transition and on cuts to the basket. He also has a deceptively tight handle that enables him to get past defenders and to the hoop.

That ability alone is a good reason why Shepherd’s on the team. With the dearth of playmakers on Canada, being able to create your own shot is very valuable.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit of an all-or-nothing thing with Shepherd as he doesn’t have the greatest outside or mid-range touch, meaning that if he’s stopped on his way to the basket there’s a good chance the ball won’t find the bottom of the hoop.

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