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Canada

Executive VP Rowan Barrett praises players' commitment after qualifying for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019

#Rowan Barrett
(Courtesy North Pole Hoops)

When the clock finally hit zeros on Monday after Canada defeated Brazil and officially qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, the first thought that came to mind for Assistant GM and Executive VP of Canada Basketball Rowan Barrett was "finally."

Barrett, who played for the national team at the 2000 Summer Olympic games in Sydney, Australia and at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana knows the feeling of competing at the highest level for his country.

A day after Canada qualified, all he could talk about were the players, who he believes is the reason for the success of the program.

"It's the players, it's their program," Barrett told NBA.com. "I think one of the things that we talked about quite a bit since we started way back in 2012 with the seniors has been to create a culture of service to the players - involving them in our decisions.

"Speaking to them, hearing their voices on our preparation, hearing their voices as a team. As you do that, the program becomes their program and the program will go as far as they decide to take it.

"It's been tremendous to see everybody come together - this culture that we have and the belief that we can do it has also been shining through."

In 2012, Barrett alongside Steve Nash and head coach Jay Triano knew that the talent level in Canada would have them in the conversation of most powerful basketball nations. Canada boasts the most international NBA players at 11, with two on two-way contracts splitting time between the league and the NBA G-League, but with the new qualification process put in this by FIBA for the World Cup and ultimately the Olympics, Canada would have to dig deep into its pool of players to qualify for the tournament beginning in August.

35 different players have worn the red and white to this point in the qualification process with one more window left to go in February. Included in that 35 is some of the NBA talent, but the number is largely made up of players outside of the league.

Players that were a product of U Sports (formerly the CIS) would be sprinkled into the roster in years past. Most notably Will Njoku in the early 90s and Aaron Doornekamp later in the early 2000s. On Monday, there were six players who were a product of USports, something Barrett isn't taking for granted.

The national team program always had a strong coaching presence from U Sports, and Barrett feels that the coaching at that level is the reason for the emergence and overall talent level of the university game in Canada, which in turn is a major win for the growth of the game and ultimately the national team program.

"I think it's hugely important," Barrett said of the growth of U Sports. "Not to mention the U Sports culture that we had on our bench in (Roy) Rana and Partick Tatum. I think that we've always had U Sports coaches in our staff, to now see this growth and pivot to more U Sports players along with those coaches I think it speaks to the work that those coaches have been doing.

"Growing the talent, building their skills, helping them understand what you need to deliver at the highest levels and our players are now showing the ability to do that. They're coming out with double-figure performances, they're sometimes coming out as defensive stoppers, they're filling all kind of different holes with our team - they're here in every facet of the game helping us.

"Now we're seeing more and more USports players going overseas playing professionally. Connor Morgan came out of UBC and he's playing in the ACB in Spain like this is amazing.

"I think more and more you're seeing the growth of that league and their growth has positively impacted Canada Basketball in its hopes to be the world's best."

Now that step one is complete, the focus now shifts over to building the best chance of winning at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Canada will find out which pool it will play out of and who their opponents will be for the first phase of the tournament on March 16, 2019. If you think Barrett and the staff at Canada Basketball are happy with just participating, think again.

With the talent level Canada could potentially field at the World Cup, a podium finish should be well in their grasp, and Barrett doesn't expect anything less than that.

"I think for us any time we go into a tournament we're always shooting for the podium," Barrett continued.

"I think that's where we are as a country. We're always going to try to win."

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