Canada hosting men’s basketball Olympic qualifying tournament a ‘big boost’: Coach Nurse


DALLAS — Canada Basketball deserves some big-time credit these days.

Coming of a hard-fought but disappointing FIBA World Cup in which the goal of an Olympic berth never materialized, the nation’s basketball overseeer went to work behind the scenes and pulled off something that may mean the difference between grabbing a last-chance berth in the Olympics or not.

FIBA announced early Friday morning that Canada was one of four successful bidders to host a six-team, winner-goes-to-the Olympics qualifer this June.

Victoria, B.C. will host the tournament June 23-28.

What it means is Canada’s NBA elite won’t have to go half way around the world after a long NBA season to aid in the country’s bid for the first spot in the men’s basketball tournament at the Olympics since 2000.

This past summer, the FIBA World Championships in China, which served as the primary qualifier for the Olympics, saw 15 of Canada’s 17 NBA players opt out of the competition. Only Cory Joseph and Khem Birch answered the call, although Kelly Olynyk was with the team in training and only an injury incurred in a warmup kept him off the roster in China.

Head coach Nick Nurse, who has his hands rather full at the moment with the defending NBA champion Raptors, was thrilled with the news.

“I don’t know if I can say we are too surprised,” Nurse said following Raptors’ practice in Dallas on Friday. “I knew we were trying to do it and stuff. But it’s great to see it’s official and I think it’s a big boost for the program, for sure.

“I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but I know that once we qualified I knew we were like ‘we need to host it,’” Nurse said. “How we got from point A to point B to getting it done, I can’t really say. I’ve been busy coaching a team. But give credit where credit is due to Glen (Grunwald) and Rowan (Barrett) and those guys who figured it out.”

Grunwald, the president and CEO of Canada Basketball, and Barrett, the GM, have provided Canada just the kind of incentive it needs to get all hands on deck for this crucial six-team tournament.

“Listen, I can only say this,” Nurse said of the impact this news can have. “I think it will give them (the Canadian NBA stars) a lot of appeal. And I can only say that my contact with the guys has been super positive. Let’s see what happens, but I really would think this gives us a great chance for our guys to play … or an even better chance.”

The tournament will be held at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C, a 7,000-seat arena.

The draw for the four qualifying tournaments — Serbia, Lithuania, and Croatia will also host — will be held Nov 27 at the FIBA headquarters.

In addition to providing a home court to Canada’s stars, by hosting a tournament Canada will avoid all three of the other host nations in their group of six. Serbia, Lithuania, and Croatia are ranked sixth, eighth and 14th in the FIBA World rankings. Canada sits 21st.