Sunday, 23 August 2009

Preview: FIBA Americas 2009 Qualifier

This coming week marks the start of the FIBA Americas 2009 world championship qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico in which Canada looks to advance to our first major global basketball competition since the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis when Canada was coached by Jay Triano and had Steve Nash and Rowan Barrett leading the way.

The tournament, which determines four teams from FIBA Americas region to qualify for the 2010 FIBA World Basketball championships in Turkey, opens on Wednesday however Canada has a bye on the first day before opening up play in Group A against Mexico on Thursday, August 27th. Canada also plays U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday, Uruguay next Saturday and finishes Group A play on Sunday against the host Puerto Ricans. To advance past the first round, Canada must finish at least fourth in the five team Group A standings.

Canada will name their twelve man roster this coming Tuesday, August 25th but from the Tuto Marchand Cup we can probably guess who the key guys are including: Carl English, Joel Anthony, Olu Famutimi, Jermaine Anderson, Jesse Young, Andy Rautins, Levon Kendall, Tyler Kepkay, Aaron Doornekamp, Phil Martin and Kyle Landry. At this point, Carleton alumnus Ryan Bell is likely on the bubble but he did get significant minutes in Puerto Rico last week so he is still in the mix.

Below we provide an in-depth look at all of nine other countries participating in the tournament but rest assured this event is stacked with NBA players (some names may surprise you), highly-rated NCAA talent plus very good international players and Canada must finish no worse than 4th place overall to automatically qualify; that is, Canada must finish ahead of 6 teams, two of which will be eliminated after the preliminary round. There will also be 4 wild cards from throughout the world to be named sometime in December to round out the 24 team World Championship field in Turkey, 2010. Qualifying out of this tournament will be challenging given how deep most teams at this competition are - we have detailed previews on each team below. This tournament will be hotly contested - Uruguay and Mexico's game in Mexico City last night had to be abandoned in the third quarter with Mexico leading when a brawl broke out

WHAT CANADA HAS TO DO TO QUALIFY: The FIBA Americas championship consists of 10 teams, initially placed into 2 groups of 5 teams per group. Canada is in Group A with Mexico, Virgin Islands, Uruguay and Puerto Rico. Group B consists of Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Panama and Venezuela. The first round consists of a four game round robin. The top 4 teams in each group of the round robin advance to the second round (8 teams remaining). The second round then consists of games against teams not met in the first round but standings will include results from the first round against advancing teams. The first four (4) teams in the standings after the second round will then qualify directly for the 2010 FIBA World Championship to be played in Turkey. To qualify for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey next summer, Canada must finish ahead of six teams.

Group A Preview.

Mexico... Canada's opponent in their first game will field probably their best team in recent history, possibly led by 6'8" Eduardo Najera (New Jersey Nets) and 6'0" Earl Watson (Oklahoma City Thunder), who parents were both born in Mexico, although Najera is still recovering from hernia surgery that sidelined him for the last half of this past NBA season. Late note: neither played in Mexico's last 4 pre-tournament friendlies against Argentina (loss) and Uruguay (2 losses + 1 suspended game due to a fight in the third quarter). Even without Najera and Watson, the Mexicans are stronger than in the past, capturing the COCABA Championship Gold Medal earlier in the summer. Also projected to be on the roster is Watson's fellow UCLA alumnus Lorenzo Mata-Real, who was a key part of 3 Final Four teams with the Bruins earlier this decade. 6'7" UNLV grad Romel Beck, who became noteworthy for his cross-over dribble and subsequent four point play on Kobe Bryant in the 2007 FIBA Americas qualifier, recently knocked 10 threes and scored 40 points in a COCABA tournament game against Costa Rica. Big Gustavo Ayon (San Jose State) is expected to log minutes up front as is veteran 7'0" Horacio Llamas (Grand Canyon State). Another 7 footer, slender Adam Parada (UC-Irvine) may also play. Former Oregon star Anthony Pedrosa played well as the Mexicans lost a pair of games to Uruguay this past weekend in their final tuneups for this tournament. Canada defeated Mexico 97-80 during the Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas in 2007. At that tournament, former U.S. college mentor Nolan Richardson was coaching Mexico but he has since moved on.

U.S. Virgin Islands... All 12 members of this group played or are playing NCAA Division 1 basketball including veterans 6'0" Kevin Sheppard (Jacksonville), 6'5" veteran Reggie Freeman (Texas), forward Jason Edwin (Kent St.), forward Kitwana Rhymer (UMass), forward Cuthbert Victor (Murray St.) and David Cooper (James Madison). Walter Hodge, who graduated from Florida University, is one of the new members in the national team. The guard was born in Puerto Rico but his grandparents were born in the USVI, making him eligible to play. Also appearing on the roster is young 6'4" Aaron Brown, entering his final season of high school at St. Benedicts Prep and a highly-rated recruit in the class of 2010. The Virgin Islands has played in three of the prior four FIBA Americas tourneys held this decade, going 2-14 including 2005 in Las Vegas (0-4). Coach Tevester Anderson is very optimistic 'We have as good as talent as ever. I hope one of these days were going to come back to the Virgin Islands and have parade because we have won a gold medal.' Canada recorded a 93-83 win over U.S. Virgin Islands in Las Vegas, coming back from an early deficit. Expect U.S. Virgin Islands to throw up a lot of 3's - in the '07 game against Canada, they shot 13-24 from downtown including a 6-8 performance by Jason Edwin.

Uruguay... Up front 6'11" Esteban Batista, a legitimate international big man, leads this emerging South American team which has already defeated both Argentina and Brazil in pre-tournament play. Leandro Garcia (Texas A&M), who had 17 pts against Canada last time these two teams met in a meaningful international game, is probably Uruguay's best perimeter player. Martin Osimani (Duquesne), another veteran will run Uruguay's offense from the point. Also in the mix in the backcourt is 6'4" Gustavo Barrera, a veteran of the Spanish league. Mauricio Aguiar shuold see significant time on the wing - his 20 point effort keyed an early August win over Brazil. Uruguay tuned up for the qualifying tourney with a three-game series against Mexico over the weekend, winning the first two and then down 9 late in the third quarter when a brawl broke out. Canada came up with a 95-88 victory over Uruguay during the 2007 Las Vegas qualifier as Jesse Young dominated inside.

Puerto Rico... The hosts were hurt by the decision by Mark Cuban to not allow his slick point guard J.J. Barea to participate but the hosts are still strong with veteran NBAer Carlos Arroyo expected to log major minutes. As of last week, the roster remained in flux although the Puerto Ricans did defeat Canada at the recent Tuto Marchand Cup.

Group B:
Still ranked #1 globally by FIBA, Argy has an anchor in the middle in Houston Rockets 6'10" Luis Scola, a loyal National team player and MVP at the Las Vegas 2007 Olympic qualifying tournament. Argentina will be without NBAer's Manu Ginobli, Andres Nochioni, Carlos Delfino, Francisco Alberto and Walter Hermann for this tournament however their remains significant talent to support Scola including PG Pablo Prigioni (who apparently is not full strength), SG Paolo Quinteros and Diego García, SF Federico Kammerichs and Matías Sandes, PF Leonardo Gutiérrez and C Juan Gutiérrez. Despite their inconsistent results leading up to this tournament, the Argentines remain one of the favorites to win this event.

Brazil... The Brazilians are still stinging from not qualifying for last year's Olympics and are back with a strong group that recently tore through three games at the Tuto Marchand Cup in Puerto Rico. Phoenix Suns blur guard Leandro Barbosa has been their leading scorer and Anderson Varajao (Cleveland Cavaliers) provides strength and experience inside. Denver's Nene did not participate in the Puerto Rican tuneup however slick offensive big man Tiago Splitter, a veteran of the tough Spanish league, will score inside. Former Gonzaga star J.P. Batista helps inside and Barbosa's drives usually make for easy looks for the Machado brothers (Duda and Marcelinho).

Dominican Republic... Usually one of the teams that Canada has a very good chance at beating, this year's group is led by three very good, legitimate NBAer's in 6'7" Francisco Garcia (Sacramento/Louisville), Al Horford (Atlanta/Florida) and Charlie Villenueva (New Jersey/UConn). Setting the table for this group is 6'2" Luis Flores from Manhattan University who saw NBA action with New Orleans this past season. Also in the mix is 6'5" Jeff Greer, a native of the Bronx who played 3 seasons at Rutgers before embarking on a successful European career mainly in France. DR has already swept Mexico in three straight pre-tournament games and appears poised to move into the upper echelon of FIBA Americas with this outstanding core group.

Panama... Danilo "J.R." Pinnock, a 6-foot-5 guard who entered the NBA draft in 2006 following his junior year at George Washington and recently signed with Netanya of the Isreali league, leads Panama and has already had a big summer, leading his country to the bronze medal at the COCABA Championship earlier in the summer, tallying 27.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 3.5 apg. Scrappy 6'9" Jamie Lloreda (LSU), who averaged a double/double in his final year as a Bayou Tiger in 2003 and was Panama's leading scorer at the 2007 Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas and 6'7" Gary Forbes (UMass/Virginia), who averaged 19.4 ppg/7.9 rpg in his senior year and had 30 points in Panama's OT loss to silver medalist Argentina in Las Vegas, also should be rotation players. Others to watch include forward Ernesto Oglivie, 6'8" forward Dionisio Gomez (Arkansas) and 6'9" Jamaal Levy, a three-year starter at Wake Forest who graduated in 2005.

Venezuela... 6'6" Greivis Vasquez, who rose to fame earlier this year by singlehandidly leading his Maryland Terrapins to an overtime victory against eventual national champions North Carolina, is Venezuela's most noteable name. Vasquez, who is very flashy and imaginative in transition, has NBA talent as a big guard. Also in the rotation should be Jhon Cox who plays for the French Club Nancy in 1st Division. 6'6" Oscar Torres, the first Venezuelan to play in the NBA (Houston, Golden State), will be in the mix as will 6'7" former Sun Belt conference Player-of-the-Year forward Hector Romero (New Orleans) (19.9 ppg/8.0 rpg at Las Vegas qualifier), and veteran 6'8" forward Richard Lugo (St. Francis (NY)) are the usual stars. Another rising star is 6'8" 240 lbs. Greg Echenique , who went to high school at New Jersey national prep power St. Benedict's and then turned down a scholarship at Duke University to attend Big East school Rutgers, where he averaged 8.4 ppg/8.4 rpg as a true freshman, is one of the best big men prospects in Latin America, if not the best.

1 comment:

John said...

I'm looking forward to this tournament even though the absence of team USA might have taken the gloss just little bit. But still there is all to play for. It must be exciting to see just how the Dominican Rep are going to fare with present of such world class talent. I will be surprise if they missed out on the trip Turkey next year.

In the meantime, please check out my preview of the tournament. Your comments will be highly appreciated