Arop, Olynyk Make Canada Junior Men's National Team
June 30, 2009
TORONTO, Ontario - Gonzaga University incoming freshmen men's basketball players Mangisto Arop (Edmonton, AB) and Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops, BC) are among the players Canada Basketball unveiled for the official roster for the 2009 edition of the Junior Men's National Team (JMNT) that will compete in the FIBA U19 World Championship July 2-12 in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Bulldogs-bound duo are from the National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) and join fellow North American top 10 prospects, Corey Joseph (Pickering, ON) and Tristan Thompson (Brampton, ON).
"We have tremendous motivation this year with the upcoming FIBA U19 World Championship in July," said Greg Francis, head coach of the NEDA Boy's Team and the Junior National Men's Team. "We have a number of extremely talented athletes from across the nation and we will be able to go to worlds with a very strong team."
Touted as the biggest basketball event in the world this year, the FIBA U19 World Championship showcases the best players aged 19 years and younger from 16 countries and five continents.
Canada, assigned to Pool A, along with Australia, Syria and Spain, will open the tournament Thursday at 2 p.m. Pacific Time against the Australian Team. Canada's opening game and the match against Spain Saturday at 2 p.m. Pacific Time will both be televised on www.fibatv.com.
The JMNT is riding high after winning the 23rd Annual Mondial Juniors de Basket earlier this month. One of Europe's premier basketball tournaments, this event is recognized as the prequel to the FIBA U19 World Championship. The Canadians had big wins over France, Puerto Rico and Lithuania to win the title, and Olynyk's dominant performance earned him tournament MVP honours.
"Our guys really played hard throughout the [Mondial Juniors de Basket] tournament," said Francis. "It was such a great win for our team and the experience of playing tough countries outside our zone will go a long way in helping our guys prepare for the Worlds."
The 2009 JMNT has a core group of nine players returning from the 2008 team that placed third at 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championships. It was the strong performance last summer that earned the JMNT a berth in the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championships, marking the second consecutive time that Canada has competed at this event.
Francis is excited about his team's chances. "I think we have a lot more upside for the Worlds because we brought a young team [last summer] and we have had a year to train and gain experience."
Olynyk is just as excited as his coach. "Being able to represent Canada on a world class level and international stage is a great honor. It's an exciting thing to be a part of and I can't wait to let the world know what Canada can do when it comes to the game of basketball."
New to the 2009 squad are guards Jordan Baker (Edmonton, AB), Laurent Rivard (Montreal, QC) and Joseph. Like his talented brother Devoe (who played for Francis on the 2007 JMNT), Corey gives Team Canada a strong leader at the point position. He currently ranks sixth on the North American top prospects list for 2010. Baker and Rivard give the team an added boost on both ends of the court.
The format for the FIBA U19 World Championship is as follows: four pools of four teams will participate in the preliminary round. The top three countries in each pool will advance to the second round-robin. The top eight teams after the second round will advance to the quarter finals (sudden-death format).
Canada has qualified for the FIBA U19 World Championships on five previous occasions, the most recent being a tenth place finish in the 2007 event. Canada also qualified in 1979 (finished 7th), 1983 (14th), 1987 (6th), and 1991 (8th). Canada finished third at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championships and fourth at the 2006 event.
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