Canada beats USA for World Cup bronze medal and the scary thing is, they 'can even get better going into the Olympics' | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / June 21.
  • Canada beats USA for World Cup bronze medal and the scary thing is, they ‘can even get better going into the Olympics’

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Canada’s 127-118 overtime win against the U.S. in the FIBA World Cup bronze medal game in the Philippines may come as a surprise to some, but not to Steve Konchalski.

    Konchalski, the longtime Canadian coach dubbed the “Coach K of Canada” and the brother of the late, great New York talent scout Tom Konchalski, knows as well as anyone the vast reservoir of talent that has been bubbling up from Canada in recent years.

    Consider that NBA players Dillon Brooks (39 points), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31) and RJ Barrett (23) combined for 93 points in the win, but that Canada didn’t even have two other NBA stars in Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray.

    “As a team we wanted this,” Brooks said. “ We wanted it, this bronze medal, to do something that hadn’t been done, to keep creating history. It’s a great stepping stone for us as a ball club, as a country, and we all just wanted to make our country proud.”

    The U.S. fielded a team of 12 NBA players — albeit not the best our country has to offer — and Brandon Ingram, Paolo Banchero and Jaren Jackson Jr. missed the game due to illness.

    Still, a win’s a win and Canada earned it in one of the biggest international tournaments there is. Germany later beat Serbia, 83-77, to win the World Cup.

    Canada’s only other medal in a tournament of this magnitude — World Cup or Olympics — came in 1936, when it lost 19-8 to the U.S. in the gold-medal matchup at the Berlin Games.

    “A lot of things [are] going through my mind now as I have been involved in Canada Basketball for 50 years, but I think what comes to my mind first is the depth of talent that has developed in Canada, which was accelerated by the Raptors coming to Canada in 1995,” Konchalski, now a senior advisor to the Calgary Surge of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), wrote Sunday morning by text from his home in Nova Scotia.

    “But there were a total of 33 players that represented Canada over the last year or two to help us qualify to even to be in the World Cup tournament, and the exciting part is that we can even get better going into the [Paris] Olympics next summer by adding a few players to the mix. The first two that come to mind, of course being Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins.”

    Six years ago, Barrett put on a one-man show as Canada stunned a John Calipari-coach U.S. U19 team in the semifinals of the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt.

    Barrett authored a LeBron-esque 38-point, 13-rebound, 5-assist game in the win.

    “The reality was, one kid really went crazy, and then the rest of their kids did what they did, so hats off to them. Congratulate Canada,” Calipari said at the time. “They deserved to win the game.”

    Fast forward six years and Barrett, a 6-foot-7 left-handed wing from Toronto who stars for the Knicks, has now beaten the U.S. with the Senior National Team ahead of next year’s Olympics.

    For those who pay attention to the NBA and grassroots basketball, this shouldn’t be a shocker. Canada had 22 players on NBA rosters to start last season, the most of any country outside the U.S. Australia was second with 10.

    For the U.S., it was just another World Cup another debacle. They finished seventh in China four years ago, fourth in Manila — losing three of their final four games — and now have less than 12 months to regroup for the Paris Games and the quest to win a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

    Team USA coach Steve Kerr had to listen to Brooks receive MVP chants as the game ended. One can only imagine what that felt like for Kerr, a five-time NBA champion as a player and a four-time champ as a coach.

    Meantime, Canada has major momentum going into the Paris Olympics.

    Imagine how good this team could be with Wiggins and Murray?

    One thing’s for sure: Canada Basketball, long a dormant monster on the international scene, looks ready to storm onto the world scene and be a factor for years to come.

    “It is exciting to think about the profile that basketball will have across the country for the next year as the excitement builds toward Paris 2024, similar to what the Raptors NBA championship did a few years ago,” Konchalski said. “More and more young boys and girls will pick up a basketball rather than a hockey stick!”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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