Canadian basketball's identity crisis

Steven Loung, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 5:32 PM ET

Canada won't be medaling at the FIBA U19 World Championship after Serbia crushed the country's hopes with a 94-73 blowout on Wednesday, leaving the team with only a chance to finish anywhere from ninth to 12th place in the tournament.

Considering the fact that most of the opponents the Canadians had to face in the tournament were simply superior, their mediocre record in the competition actually isn't as bad as it seems and should have almost been expected.

However, where there should be legitimate concern is the way Canada lost most of its games. Getting outscored a combined 288-195 in the team's games against the United States, Lithuania and Serbia suggests that Canada never had any chance against these opponents even though the collection of talent on the Canadian side was supposed to be more evenly matched with the rest of the world's best.

So then, if it wasn't a clear talent disparity, what could have caused such lopsided losses? There are a multitude of factors such as a lack of team familiarity and cohesiveness as well as fatigue from playing consecutive games. The most interesting reason, however, may have been because of a problem that's at the very core of basketball in Canada -- the fact that the team didn't really have an on-court identity.

The best basketball teams in the world have an easily recognizable identity such as the United States' superior athleticism and various European teams' excellent ball movement and three-point shooting.

When it comes to Canada, you can't really put your finger on what sort of team it is. On the one hand, because it's been among the leaders in three-point field goal attempts per game thus far in the tournament, it's easy to think that the team is very perimeter oriented, yet it's converting less than 30 percent of its shots from deep.

It's easier to think of Canada as more of a power team as it has managed to get to the free-throw line consistently throughout the tournament, being one of the leaders in free-throw attempts per game, and has rebounded well, pulling down close to 40 per contest.

Despite the good inside numbers, the Canucks have still insisted on hoisting from deep even though they've seen little success, thus bringing back the argument full circle that this is a team that doesn't really know what its strength is.

Blame could go to the coaching staff here for not properly spelling out what sort of team they want to see on the floor but this is really more of a challenge that Canadian hoops faces in general. Within the country, the questions of what exactly the Canadian identity is as a nation is often asked with no clear answer, so pinpointing what is Canadian basketball is an even tougher challenge.

Right now, in terms of the country's developmental path to becoming a global basketball power, Canada is just in the infancy phase, laying down the groundwork for a consistent pipeline of basketball prospects leaving the players on the national teams to be playing pretty much on their talents alone.

The next step will be to create a true Canadian basketball identity so the kind of players that are being filtered into the national programs are the ones that will fit the style of the team and ultimately be able to consistently compete at a high level because it'll be clearer what personnel need to be targeted for each individual national club.

Until Canada begins to understand what sort of team it wants out on the court, middling results such as the one that the team is now faced with will continually plague the country's national teams.

It certainly isn't going to happen overnight but it's going to have to happen sooner than later. 


Videos

Photos