Canada Basketball President and CEO Michael Bartlett has high expectations.
“Without having the audacity to promise it, as a team sport ahead of the next Summer Olympics and certainly in 2028, Canada Basketball might be able to bring home four incredible stories with four incredible medals,” Bartlett told CBC Sports.
This would include podium appearances for both men’s and women’s teams in traditional five-on-five basketball, plus two more in 3×3.
Only the five-on-five women’s team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, without even reaching the round of 16.
But Bartlett’s confidence isn’t far-fetched. The five-on-five women’s team remains ranked fourth in the world, while the men can boast the best roster on paper outside of the United States.
In 3×3, the women are coming off a silver medal at the World Cup and a win at the World Series stop in Edmonton. The men are ranked 24th.
“I would like the next ‘Where Were You When’ moment to be a basketball moment, a national basketball moment,” Bartlett said. “You have the 2010 Olympics [Sidney Crosby’s golden goal]you have the ’72 Summit series [Paul Henderson’s game-winning goal against the Soviets]. You have Mike Weir’s victory at the Masters, you have [Bianca] At Andreescu’s [US Open]. I have to add basketball to that list.”
This moment, realistically, remains in two years, achievable in Paris 2024.
Women on their way to the World Cup
The biggest remaining event on the 2022 calendar is the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in late September in Australia.
Some members of the national team recently gathered for a training camp in New York, where they also took part in two scrums against the third-ranked Australians.
The young Canadian team lost both games. Still, it was an additional opportunity to become more familiar with new head coach Victor LaPeña.
“It’s an example of investing in something we wouldn’t normally invest in or making sure we had the funds to invest. … That’s what creating winning programs looks like,” Bartlett said. , who took over from Glen Grunwald in September. 2021 after a decade with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
The World Cup presents a chance for Canada to seize a missed opportunity in Tokyo and prove that they truly are the fourth best team in the world.
Bartlett, however, says it’s about preparing for the Olympics.
“It’s not to say that we give ourselves a pass for the World Cup, but all these things that [LaPeña is] leading to the World Cup and through the World Cup really indicates that we are ready to win in Paris,” he said.
In a revamped format offering less margin for error than previous years, it was that opening loss to Serbia in which Canada shot 28% in the first half, and five for 24% overall from a three-point range that finally proved the dagger in Canada’s medal hopefuls.
It’s the type of loss Bartlett said he could live with as long as he’s comfortable with the full range of tools provided to the team.
“What we’re trying to do with our resourcing plan is take away those excuses for it being just talent because if it’s just talent we’re going to win more games. that we don’t lose any. That’s just the reality,” Bartlett said.
2023 key year for men
This is also true for the men’s team.
At the start of the summer, a group of 14 players – including NBA stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray and RJ Barrett – signed on with head coach Nick Nurse’s National Team through Paris.
On the first opportunity to play World Cup qualifying in July, only Gilgeous-Alexander qualified. Murray and Barrett, whose father Rowan is the general manager, received excused absences.
WATCH | Gilgeous-Alexander leads Canada’s victory in World Cup qualification:
Bartlett said the organization is “laser focused” on an upcoming August window. He doesn’t expect a significant turnout for September’s AmeriCup, which doesn’t matter for qualifying.
“I think what you’re going to see is a mix of next-gen guys who will be in our system for a long time and who aren’t in the senior squad right now. And then maybe a mix of some of our core guy winters just to give veterans and FIBA some presence,” he said.
The men’s World Cup, scheduled for August 2023, will be the next real test of the program and a chance to qualify for Paris.
3×3 a “community goal”
In 3×3, the Women’s World Cup silver medal came with limited support staff and no head coach – a role Canada Basketball recently said it was trying to fill.
The sport was only introduced at the Tokyo Olympics and has only had an ongoing FIBA Series since 2010.
Thus, Bartlett focuses on growing the sport from the ground up.
“We have lightning in a bottle with this sport and with the talent pool we have in our country, we can accelerate our high performance podium title very quickly,” he said.
WATCH | Canadians win silver at 3×3 World Cup:
Bartlett said Canada Basketball is in discussions with USports to add 3×3 as a varsity sport at some point. He said the federation is also formulating a plan to develop 3×3 players either only in the format or simultaneously with five-on-five.
“The challenge we have right now is that there’s so much to do with the new vertical that was, quite frankly, by FIBA and sort of by the IOC was sort of given up to the federations as a high performance goal. But for it to be a sustained and successful goal, it also has to be a community goal,” Bartlett said.
With eyes on four Olympic medals, Bartlett said it is now up to the federation to provide all the necessary resources.
“I’m ok with losing at the end of the day because we got beaten. If we didn’t act appropriately against this team and that helped get us beaten, then it’s up to us. ‘organization.”