In the next few days, Canada will get a close up view of what to expect when they meet Jamaica in the opener of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) men’s American championship in Caracas, Brazil later this month.
The two teams meet in the Jack Donohue International Classic tonight (August 8) and on Saturday at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
They are in the same group with Brazil, Puerto Rico and Uruguay for the upcoming tournament from August 30 to September 11. The other group comprises host country Venezuela, Paraguay, Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The top four teams will advance to next year’s inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
Canada Basketball executive vice-president and assistant general manager, Rowan Barrett, expects the matches will generate tremendous interest in the large Jamaican-Canadian community in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The great thing about this city is that almost any country you bring here to play would have significant support from nationals who have migrated from so many countries around the world,” said Barrett, a former Canadian player. “Jamaica is no different with so many nationals residing here.”
At a press conference last week, Canada Basketball announced an 18-member squad to prepare for the two-match series and the tournament in Venezuela. The squad includes National Basketball Association (NBA) players, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Nicholson, whose parents are of Jamaican descent.
This year’s top NBA draft pick, Anthony Bennett, whose mother Edith migrated from Jamaica in 1980, is unavailable because of injury.
Barrett said the two-match series against Jamaica will provide the local players with an opportunity to get a feel of their first-match opponents in Venezuela on August 30.
“The reality is however that we have a young team and we need to get experience,” he said. “How successful we are against Jamaica and the other teams at the FIBA championship will be directly related to how fast the development takes place. We have an opportunity for our players to gain experience by competing against the Americas nations.”
Jamaica’s coach, Richard Polack, said the games will serve as a warm-up for the upcoming tournament.
“This trip is important for our development,” he said. “We have never had this kind of games as warm-up, so it will help.”
The tourists’ line-up includes Adrian Uter, Weymmi Rose, Akeem Scott, Garfield Blair, Dyland Ennis, Durand Scott, Christopher Walker, Michael Rogers, Lynford Brown, Adrian Forbes and Samardo Samuels, who played in the National Basketball Association before signing with Italian side AC Milan.
“This is a great opportunity we have to get ready for the Americas tournament,” said Samuels. “These games and those in Venezuela could be good in getting some of our players to show what they got and maybe get professional contracts.”
Jamaica will be without starting centre Jerome Jordan and Patrick Ewing Jr., who are expected to make the trip to Venezuela.
Established in 2005, the Jack Donohue tournament honours the contributions of the Canadian men’s coach who died a decade ago.
Tip-off in both matches is 7 p.m. and the admission prices range from $25 to $150.