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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supreme Court of Canada will hear Sinixt appeal May 12

B.C. has appealed aboriginal hunting case through several levels of court starting in Nelson in 2016

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Missing Slocan City man found dead

Douglas Morrison went missing in mid-January

School District 51 turns its focus to students’ mental health

‘It’s a shift in our thinking, from what we expect schools to be like and what they are now’

IN PHOTOS: 2020 Wilgress Lake Fishing Derby

Fishermen dotted Wilgress Lake for the Boundary Métis Association’s annual event

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

Most Read