By Cesare Milanti / firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA, Philippines – Canada will face Slovenia in the Quarter-Finals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, after going through a tough Group Stage in Jakarta. Talking with the media after their last practice, the Canadian national team’s head coach Jordi Fernandez commented on the upcoming clash.
“It’s gonna be a challenge, we are facing a team that has played together for a while, with obviously a superstar. It’s gonna take a village to get the win. We have the tools that we need defensively and I think we’re willing to do the right thing and play our style of basketball. We’ll have the chance to do what we want to do and win the game”, he first said.
Most importantly, this will be a battle against Luka Doncic, probably the best player in the whole International competition. However, this will be a team effort. “It’s not easy. He’s one of the best European players, one of the best NBA players. It excites everybody. But it’s not Luka, it’s a team. They’ve done a great job from coaching to players building their chemistry. They’ve won EuroBasket, and they’ve been to the Olympics. Luka couldn’t do it on his own. It’s a team sport and even though he’s the head of the snake, they are a good team”, Jordi Fernandez also said on Slovenia.
The Spanish head coach was appointed right before heading to the 2023 FIBA World Cup but has grown his relationship within the red-and-white group. “We knew and we said from the beginning that one of our main priorities was to build relationships, me included. Everybody has made the effort to do so, we spent a lot of days together. Even though we’re a young group, we stay and fight together. Watching the games we’ve played so far, you see the competitiveness. That’s the product of all our days and our willingness to get to know each other”, Jordi Fernandez added.
On what this Quarter-Finals mean for the country, the 40-year-old had emotional words. “This group of guys, the organization of Canada Basketball, the resources, and everybody involved are willing to do what’s best for the program. It’s not about anybody individually, not about Shai, or me: it’s about us. When you play for your country, we’ve accomplished one goal, but it’s just one. We’re gonna get the next one, doing it for Canada”, Sacramento Kings‘ assistant coach said.
Canada is already qualified for next year’s Olympic Games, but this doesn’t stop them from reaching their goal. “These guys wanted to win the all thing. It’s just one step at a time. We said we needed one win in a row eight times, We were lucky that the way everything worked out, we were able to lose one game and learn from it, coming back and beat Spain. It was a close one but I think we learned from that game against Brazil. It’s three games left, and again it’s one game in a row three times starting tonight. We don’t want to think about medals or gold but about Slovenia and our chances to get to the semifinals”, he added.
Considering how tricky can be for NBA players to adapt to FIBA rules, Jordi Fernandez said two players in particular stood out for adjusting their style. “They’ve done a good job between Kelly Olynik, very smart and a veteran, and Shai. He’s a smart kid, his scoring, the times he gets to the free throw line, the rebounds that he gets. It’s not just him scoring a lot of points, it’s his assists-turnovers ratio, his rebounding, his defense. I’d say that you don’t perform at that level if you don’t adjust to the rules. He’s been amazing to work with, he’s a superstar and in my opinion, he’s the MVP of this tournament”, he said.
Considering the stage they’ve arrived at, this will be a historic appointment for Canada. “It means a lot for everybody back home in Canada, not just the people who follow and like basketball daily. It’s for everybody else, we’re playing for everybody in Canada whether you like the sport. That’s the cool thing at this time of the year, everybody can follow and support, getting to know more about these amazing Canadian players. Some of that play in the NBA, some high-level Europe. I think it’s a motivation, we have the chance to make history. Whatever the result will be tonight, it’s gonna be the best that Canada Basketball has had ever. Every time you have the chance to do something that nobody has done before, I think it’s very special. Our guys are extremely excited for that”, he finally stated.
PHOTO CREDIT: 2023 FIBA World Cup