Nick Nurse keen to recruit more Canadian basketball players

Raptors coach was named Canada’s head coach ahead of 2019 FIBA World Cup in China

Nick Nurse believes he can play a bigger role in building Canada’s basketball team.

Nurse was still soaking up the heady experience of the Toronto Raptors’ historic NBA championship run when he was named head coach of the Canadian team in June, and tasked with securing an Olympic berth for the first time in what will be 20 years.

He had no idea he’d have to do it with one hand tied behind his back.

“When I considered (the job) I thought there would be a majority of NBA guys playing, which I thought made sense as an NBA coach to have an NBA guy coaching them,” Nurse said on Wednesday.

Canada’s hopes of advancing in the FIBA World Cup died Tuesday night with a loss to Lithuania. The 0-2 team has one more preliminary-round game against Senegal — also 0-2 — on Thursday before flying to Shanghai for two important classification games to secure a spot in a second-chance Olympic qualifying tournament.

And if Canada does earn a second-chance berth? Who’ll show up to play?

READ MORE: Nick Nurse thrilled to be coaching Canada at World Cup

“I think that no matter what we do, and Steve (Nash) mentioned this years ago, in the end, this is the players’ program,” said Rowan Barrett, Canada Basketball’s general manager. “It’s their program, and so if we want to win, ultimately it’s going to come on the backs of the players.”

Nurse said he intends on playing a bigger recruiting role. It was tough this time around, he said, because he had his hands full with the Raptors’ lengthy season.

“I think I have got to try and develop some relationships with some of these guys and see where they are at,” Nurse said after practice. ”But I need more information. I need a better understanding of why or why not? Will they or will they not participate, and why or why not?”

Canadian basketball has been basking in a rare spotlight recently. Canada was applauded for just qualifying for the World Cup, a Herculean effort that required a revolving-door roster of some 36 players. Then the Raptors brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy north of the border. And with the explosion of Canadian talent in the NBA, the mood was ripe for a strong national team showing. Finally.

Canada Basketball took expectations to another level by inviting 17 NBA players, plus a crop of savvy international pros, to camp. But in the end only Cory Joseph and Khem Birch showed up from the NBA group, reducing Canada’s chances of advancing out of the tournament’s toughest draw to a sliver.

During Tuesday’s blowout loss to Lithuania, fans surely wondered how much Canada could have benefited from Tristan Thompson or Dwight Powell or Kelly Olynyk — who intended to play here before getting injured in an exhibition game — banging down low against Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis?

“We want to go back and revisit it with each player, and again each one is different,” said Canada Basketball CEO Glen Grunwald. “We’ve got to respect each person in terms of what’s going on in their career or their life, but at the same time, we’ve got to figure out how we can fit in better with their life and their career.”

Grunwald mentioned revisiting the preparation phase. This summer required a six-week commitment from players, including a trip to Australia for five exhibition games before another long flight to China. He said they might consider keeping players together at home longer. Perhaps play more games in Canada.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Oak Bay High choir director named B.C.’s most outstanding music educator

Choir director joined by Oak Bay High students at annual conference

Skeena combines Roy Henry Vickers’ vibrant expression with robust oral history

Vickers’ and Budd’s ninth collaboration sells out of local book store, Amazon

UPDATED: Missing twins from Saanich found

Jackie Wilson and Valerie Nolin, 54, were last seen Friday afternoon at Tuscany Village

Three VicPD officers honoured with award of valour from Lieutenant Governor

The officers were among 114 BC law enforcement member recognized for bravery and dedication

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Province argues in B.C. Supreme Court for smudging in schools, says it relates to curriculum

Hearing concludes in case regarding indigenous cultural practice in Vancouver Island classroom

Mosaic Forest Management announces forestry shutdown

Thousands of forestry workers in Coastal B.C. will be affected by ‘curtailment’

Appeal dismissed for B.C. man who assaulted woman in ‘thoroughly modern’ fight over phone

‘Both were seeking evidence of cheating by the other,’ says B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

University of Victoria threatens any athletes who speak about rowing coach probe

Barney Williams has been accused of harassment and abuse

B.C.’s largest catholic archdiocese names 9 clergymen in sex abuse report; probes ongoing

Vancouver Archdioces presides over 443,000 parishoners in B.C.

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you plan on making any purchases on Black Friday?

We’ve all seen the images. Shoppers rioting outside of a store in… Continue reading

Most Read