Hamilton, Brampton and Niagara hoops ties on hand as Canada pushes for FIBA World Cup spot

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Published November 1, 2022 at 11:43 am

While hometown star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a bit busy with the NBA season, players with Hamilton as well as Brampton and Niagara Region connections are joining Team Canada for the potential clinching phase in FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers.

Canada Basketball has announced a training camp roster for the next qualification window, which includes two home games in Edmonton (vs. Venezuela, Nov. 10; vs. Panama, Nov. 13). Canada (8-0) is the only undefeated team in the Americas and sits atop Group E followed by their next opponent, Venezuela (7-1). Argentina (6-2), Dominican Republic (5-3), Panama (2-6), and The Bahamas (2-6) are also trying to qualify for next summer’s worlds in Japan and the Philippines.

The national team’s World Cup qualifying path, like their men’s soccer counterpart, has included a stop in Canada. Back on July 1, Canada defeated the Dominican Republic 95-75, with Gilgeous-Alexander hooping 32 points. (On Monday, Gilgeous-Alexander, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was named NBA Western Conference player of the week.)

Aaron Best, who helped the Hamilton Honey Badgers win the Canadian Elite Basketball League championship in August, is one of the guards on the 16-player roster. Best, who is also a former Raptors 905 player, has averaged 9.2 points and shot 35.7 per cent from deep (three-point range) in five games for Canada so far in qualifying.

Two other erstwhile Honey Badgers are in the mix. Six-foot-eight wing Jean-Victor Mukama, a Hamilton native who is a CEBL veteran and is now with Raptors 905. Veteran six-foot-11 forward Owen Klassen, who plays for EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Germany, also played for Hamilton in ’20.

Two former Niagara River Lions, guard Phil Scrubb and forward Lloyd Pandi, are also on the roster. Scrubb is one of only three players who have competed in every qualifying game thus far for Canada, averaging 5.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Scrubb’s brother, forward Thomas Scrubb, is only of the other two contributors who has played in all eight games.

Brampton native Jahvon Henry-Blair, a 24-year-old guard and Georgetown Hoyas alumnus, is also on the camp roster. Henry-Blair could potentially be the 25th player that Canada has used during qualifying.

All are part of a senior men’s national team player pool who are “committed to representing Canada internationally over the course of the next several years in the lead-up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.” The qualifying process, not unlike soccer’s, is spaced out in two-game windows.

Canada has not competed in the Olympics in men’s basketball since 2000, when a team led by Steve Nash finished fifth.

The senior women’s national team (SWNT) have been Olympics regulars since London 2012. Last month, with Hamilton native Kia Nurse playing her first competitive games since a knee injury and subsequent surgery, Canada finished fourth at the World Cup in Sydney, Australia. It was the SWNT’s best worlds finish in 36 years.

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