Pan­gos lands safely with Team Canada

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - LORIEWING

MON­TREAL Kevin Pan­gos was look­ing for­ward to his first ap­pear­ance with Canada’s bas­ket­ball team in years. He went to great lengths with his new club FC Barcelona to be able to play.

But for a few mo­ments ear­lier this week, the 25-year-old point guard must have won­dered if he’d make it to Mon­treal at all.

Pan­gos was en route from Spain to Mon­treal when his plane was forced to make an emer­gency land­ing in St. John’s, N.L. He and his fel­low pas­sen­gers were told to quickly read through the safety in­struc­tions and then as­sume the crash po­si­tion.

“I saw the flight at­ten­dant, she was try­ing to play it cool, but her smile didn’t look so real, that made me a lit­tle ner­vous,” Pan­gos said. “Ev­ery­one was kind of pan­ick­ing on the plane, think­ing like, this doesn’t sound so good. It was fright­en­ing.”

He tried to text his fam­ily, but didn’t have cell­phone ser­vice.

Pas­sen­gers were even­tu­ally told there’d been a smell of smoke in the cock­pit.

Pan­gos fi­nally ar­rived in Mon­treal in the early hours of Tues­day. Sit­ting in a univer­sity gym in down­town Mon­treal mo­ments af­ter his prac­tice with Canada, the Gon­zaga prod­uct talked about his de­ter­mi­na­tion to help his na­tional team in Thurs­day’s World Cup qual­i­fy­ing game against Brazil.

Pan­gos led Lithua­nian team Zal­giris Kau­nas to its first EuroLeague Fi­nal Four ap­pear­ance in 19 years last spring, then was signed by Barcelona, one of the world’s top pro­fes­sional pro­grams. The con­tract process in­cluded a lot of back-and-forth to al­low him to play for Canada.

“They sent an email say­ing we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of this to you,” Pan­gos said. “So it was all dis­cussed, and when I got there it wasn’t easy, but we had to dis­cuss it so both sides could be happy and this was the com­pro­mise we came to: less days of camp.”

Pan­gos has been train­ing with Barcelona for a cou­ple of weeks, and al­ready played an ex­hi­bi­tion tour­na­ment with his new team. De­spite be­ing bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, the na­tive of East Gwillim­bury, Ont., was all smiles about join­ing his Canadian team­mates.

“I just wanted to rep­re­sent the coun­try. Com­ing back here, it’s like a fam­ily, all these guys at a young age I ei­ther played with or played for, the coaches, the ther­a­pists and stuff, that’s No. 1, just wear­ing Canada on your chest,” Pan­gos said. “It felt like some­thing that was re­ally im­por­tant.”

The Cana­di­ans, who went 5-1 through the first round of qual­i­fy­ing, will fly to Chile for their sec­ond game of this win­dow Sept. 17.

The fi­nal two qual­i­fy­ing win­dows see Canada play at Venezuela on Nov. 30 and Brazil Dec. 3. Canada will host Chile on Feb. 21 and Venezuela on Feb. 24. The World Cup is Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, 2019 in China.

Kevin Pan­gos

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