Wasn’t easy, but Pan­gos fi­nally re­turns to Canada’s na­tional team

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

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. “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, and then was signed by Barcelona, one of the world’s top pro­fes­sional pro­grams. The con­tract process in­cluded a lot of back-and-forth to con­vince the club to al­low him to play for Canada.

“They sent an email say­ing we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of this to you,” said Pan­gos. “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 barely any sleep, the na­tive of Hol­land Land­ing, 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, I haven’t had a chance for a while, and it’s al­ways such an hon­our, and when I saw this win­dow and I saw the im­por­tance of these games as well it was some­thing I re­ally wanted to do.”

Pan­gos has been side­lined by in­jury or con­flicts for a few years. Rack­ing his brain Tues­day, he couldn’t re­call the last time he wore the red and white jersey. He does re­call grow­ing up it was al­ways the part of his sum­mer he looked for­ward to most.

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