Toronto Star

SILVER LINING

Despite their loss to Brazil in the gold medal game, Canada’s men’s basketball players can hold their heads high,

- DOUG SMITH SPORTS REPORTER

There was no gold and that will sting, until the realizatio­n hits that Canada got more out of the Pan Am men’s basketball tournament than they might have imagined.

They will have to settle for a silver medal after an 86-71 loss to Brazil on Saturday, but the benefits that accrued over the five days of the tournament may resonate for years.

Teenage point guard Jamal Murray made an almost seamless transition from prep school to the senior internatio­nal game, a fit and engaged Anthony Bennett was Canada’s best big man all week and the colour of the medal was the only thing off.

“We’re making progress,” said general manager Steve Nash. “It’s exciting. I think it was a terrific week for a lot of guys . . . to gain experience. And the result’s great. To beat the U.S. in the Pan Ams and make it to the goldmedal game and come up with a silver, it was an excellent result for us.

“In the big picture it was great, because we are moving in the right direction. Guys are getting experience. In this tournament, for us to finish higher than we’ve ever finished is fantastic.”

It was, as coach Jay Triano said, an interestin­g mix on a 12-man roster that is unlikely to ever play together again.

It was a bit of patchwork — team officials were making significan­t changes less than a week before the team’s first game, yet it still provided Canada with its first Pan Am men’s basketball medal ever.

“What it did was give a lot of guys an opportunit­y to put on the Canadian jersey, guys who are going to be there in the future, some guys who have been in the program who might not wear it again,” said Triano. “It was an interestin­g team. I don’t regret how we did it. I think we had the best players who were available given the circumstan­ces.”

But the next time Triano gathers a team — about three weeks from now, to prepare for the FIBA Americas qualificat­ion tournament in Mexico — it will have a different look. However, what’s transpired this past week will give Nash and Triano some things to think about.

“That team is going to be drasticall­y different,” the coach said. “Obviously we have to figure out what guys are coming to camp, style of play, what worked offensivel­y, what worked defensivel­y. This was a great tune-up for what matters later in the summer.”

It now seems likely that the18-yearold Murray will be part of the Olympic qualificat­ion team. He was just too good here, which is precisely what Triano and Nash wanted to see.

“This helped me a lot,” said Murray. “I got to know a lot of the guys on this team and some great coaches around me. I got a lot of experience playing internatio­nally. It’s a more physical game with a lot of little tricks you’ve gotta learn, but I had fun playing with a lot of great players.” Even if they were all his elders. “From my perspectiv­e, age doesn’t matter” he said. “My body and my mind are still young. I’m learning a lot from the older heads on my

“It was an interestin­g team. I don’t regret how we did it. I think we had the best players who were available given the circumstan­ces.” JAY TRIANO CANADIAN HEAD COACH

team.”

Canada, despite another enthusiast­ic sellout crowd at the Ryerson Athletic Centre, just didn’t have any energy in the first half and trailed by as many as 25 points in third quarter. They made a run to cut the gap to just six points, but ran out of gas again.

“We had a quick turnaround and were a bit sluggish to start. I don’t think we had the bounce that we’ve had in other games. I think we found it at halftime. Why it wasn’t there in the first half, I don’t know,” Triano said.

“They’re the best passing team in the tournament, the best shooting team in the tournament, the best defensive team in the tournament. Those three things are going to win you a lot of games.”

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 ?? RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR ?? Melvin Ejim, Junior Cadougan and the rest of Team Canada were thinking gold in Saturday’s final, but still went further than expected in Pan Am play.
RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR Melvin Ejim, Junior Cadougan and the rest of Team Canada were thinking gold in Saturday’s final, but still went further than expected in Pan Am play.
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