FIBA Women’s AmeriCup has opportunity for Canada to shed rust ahead of Olympics
The FIBA Women’s AmeriCup Tournament may be just the right time for Team Canada.
Ranked fourth in the world, the team hadn’t met in person for over a year before arriving in Tampa, Fla. For training camp last month.
And so, for an Olympic medal contender, it’s crucial to prepare a few matches before heading to Tokyo.
“We see them as warm-up games for sure. That’s one goal in mind with these games. But the other, obviously, is how to play the best. And our goal is definitely to win the AmeriCup, “Head coach Lisa Thomaidis recently told CBC Sports.
Canada’s first game at the Puerto Rico tournament is on Saturday against the U.S. Virgin Islands – the first of four straight round robin days, the biggest test of which is Sunday against No.15 Brazil.
The AmeriCup is widely regarded as the third biggest tournament on the calendar, behind the World Cup and the Olympics. Canada would advance to the 2022 World Cup with a top-four finish in Puerto Rico.
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Canada won silver at the 2019 AmeriCup, dropping 19 points to a strong American team in the final. Aaliyah Edwards, then 17, came off the bench to score nine points in that game, strengthening her place in the national program.
Edwards, who turns 19 in July, is now part of the squad fighting to show he deserves meaningful Olympic minutes at the 2021 event.
Canada will be deprived of its WNBA trio of Kia Nurse, Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa, as well as program devotee Kim Gaucher, who stays at home with her newborn daughter Sophie as she reflects on her Olympic participation .
That leaves plenty of opportunity for the rest of the list.
With three guards missing at Nurse, Carleton and Gaucher, younger players like Aislinn Konig and Shaina Pellington can compete with a more established player like Jamie Scott – who led the team in scoring in the loss to the United States – for additional ball handling tasks.
This position is especially crucial for a Canadian team that has adopted a faster style of play in recent years. A stable point guard to lead the quick break can make a huge difference on both sides.
General Manager Denise Dignard said every minute in a competitive environment for Canada’s young players is important.
“It’s critical that people do the mileage in this space. And it’s a different level of the Olympics, but it also gives our staff the opportunity to incorporate some of the new things they want. They are constantly looking to. evolve our style of play, ”said Dignard.
However, it’s hard to add too much to the playbook when four players who are supposed to play big roles in Tokyo are missing.
The WNBA Olympic break begins July 15, 11 days before Canada’s opener against Serbia. Proximity to events is nothing new for female basketball players, so the missing foursome must be prepared no matter what.
“When they join us, there will definitely be a point where there will be a little adjustment period to incorporate them into the things we do. But they already have,” said Thomaidis.
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The top four teams from each of the two groups in Puerto Rico advance to the quarter-finals, when the groups meet in singles qualifiers to determine the winner.
The U.S. team, led by head coach Dawn Staley, includes NCAA star Sedona Prince of Oregon and former WNBAer Aliyah Boston. Due to the current absence of the WNBAers, they are expected to become a team of similar caliber in Canada.
Canada won the tournament in 2015 and 2017. Held every two years, it never straddled the Olympics until Tokyo 2020 was postponed.
This gives the latest edition an unusual complexion, especially for Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States heading towards the Olympics.
Dignard sees the opportunity ahead.
“We’ll be looking forward to good training, good preparation, good exposure. And then when the WNBA players join us, we’ll have an exposure right before the Tokyo Olympics, and then we’ll go from there.”