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

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

OPINION: Beautiful B.C. – Isn’t it great? Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!

Huge numbers flocked to popular Chilliwack River Valley on Labour Day weekend

Tammy Wood earns top prize on Food Network’s ‘Wall of Chefs’

Former MasterChef contestant takes home $10,000 prize, beats out three other contenders

Say ‘Hi’ to the mountains (and rain): The smoke is gone from the Fraser Valley, for now

Saturday’s Fraser Valley air quality forecast at ‘moderate risk,’ but morning showers leave skies clear

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read