Roy Rana, Nathan Schellenberg and Kirby Schepp and their young charges must be feeling good as gold.
Team Canada, coming back in the final 45 seconds, beat Lithuania 83-81 on Sunday to capture the bronze medal at the FIBA U17 men's world championship in Germany. The game details (Olivier Hanlon made up a late four-point deficit with a triple and two go-ahead free throws) are best left to those there.
Suffice to say there is some Canadian grit running through that boxscore. The team, with the Ryerson Rams' Rana as head coach and the Saskatchewan Huskies' Schellenberg and Manitoba Bisons' Schepp as assistants, won with star Anthony Bennett out with injury, as six players scored between 12-15 points. They also forced Lithuania into 18 turnovers and took care of the ball, coughing it up only 10 times.
The U.S. and Poland finished 1-2, so Canada may say its only losses were to teams which finished higher and to the host country, by one point in its first game.
The result makes Canada 3-for-3 in podium finishes at the FIBA level this summer. Each of the under-18 teams won bronze at the FIBA Americas tourneys which are qualifiers for the 2011 junior world championships.
Schellenberg, of course, already celebrated a CIS Final 8 championship with the hoops Huskies in March. The Miami Heat better get him on staff, just to make sure.
A bronze medal at an age-group championship isn't Page 1 news, but people should appreciate it. The win coming on the same day as the final of the FIFA World Cup is a little ironic. . Not There is no questioning the bonafides of the true fans. You just have to wonder at the tourists who act as if they're worldly sports fans for one month every four years, but have no concept of how Canada is making strides in hoops. Come on, FIBA is the other white meat of globally played team sports with quadrennial world championships.
Next on the docket for Canada Basketball is the U17 women's championship, which begins Friday in France. Canada opens against Turkey.
(One odd roster note, since we've talked about the outdated OFSAA basketball rules, is that guard Kellie Ring, the sister of incoming Bishop's guard Scott Ring, is the only Ontarian on the squad. That's a curious stat for the country's most populous province.)