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

Just Posted

Ben Sures returns to Vernon stage

Entertaining singer brings stories to Record City, with opening local talent Ernest Anyway

Mobile needle exchange considered in Vernon

City looks at options to combat issues of discarded needles

Man cycles across B.C. Interior for sobriety

Vancouver Island Resident Matt Fee is approaching the final phase of his cross-Canada bike journey to raise awareness about addiction recovery.

Public input wanted on important ‘business’: Regional District North Okanagan

Bathroom concepts for Okanagan Rail Trail to be discussed at open house tomorrow

$24M invested in North Okanagan wastewater recovery project

Four years of hard work paid off after government invests big money into water project

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Facebook group forms committee against Thompson Nicola R.V. crackdown

Group discusses issues with regional R.V. bylaw at recent meeting

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

Most Read