There weren't many good feelings to be found among the Canadian players after they wrapped up a disappointing run through the FIBA world men's basketball championships. But the man in charge of the country's national program saw some reason for hope.
The Canadian team packed up and headed home Thursday after an 89-67 loss to defending champion Spain.
"The 0-and-5 isn't what we hoped for when we came here, but my sense is there are a number of positives to reflect upon," said Wayne Parrish, Canada Basketball's CEO and executive director. "There were stretches today when Kelly Olynyk (19 years old) and Rob Sacre (21) were on the floor at the same time and were giving Spain some issues and some problems.
"My sense is we made progress."
Olynyk, from Kamloops, B.C., led Canada with 14 points, while Toronto's Jevohn Shepherd had 12. Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony of Montreal added six rebounds.
Rudy Fernandez and Fran Vasquez each had 19 points, while 19-year-old Ricky Rubio had eight points and eight assists for Spain, which raced out to a 28-17 lead after one quarter.
Parrish said the men's program is just two years into an eight-year plan leading up to the 2016 Olympics, and fielded one of the youngest teams in Turkey with the least amount of international experience.
"At one point in the game today, Maurizio (Gherardini, Canada's Basketball's managing director) said to me, 'We're holding our own and what we have on the floor is two college players and three guys without pro contracts."'
Canada closed it to 40-37 after point guard Jermaine Anderson's jumper with 50 seconds to go in the first half.
On its next possession, however, Fernandez blocked a Canadian shot into the hands of Spain forward Alex Mumbru, who sent an arcing full-court pass to Sergio Llull. The guard then tipped the ball to Fernandez for a layup and a 42-37 Spanish halftime lead.
Canada missed 14-of-17 shots in the third quarter as it fell behind 63-48 going into the fourth.
"Our inexperience kind of hurt us," said Anderson, who like the rest of the team played in his first world championship. "We lost most of our games late or in the fourth quarter."
Canada previously lost to Lebanon, Lithuania, France and New Zealand to finish last in Group D.
Finding the right mix of players who can amp up the offence and effort will be crucial going forward, head coach Leo Rautins said. "And you found out there's certain players who are maybe not gonna work.
"We've got two young kids who I think will be really, really bright for us."
That would be six-foot-eleven Olynyk and seven-foot Sacre of Vancouver.
Olynyk, who had four rebounds, had his best game of the tournament against Spain while Sacre added eight points and three rebounds.
They also collected valuable experience against the world's best.
"The biggest thing is you can't come in fearing anyone," said Olynyk, who plays with Sacre at Gonzaga University.
"You can't come in starstruck. You can't come in backing down. And I think that's a problem some of us have - I mean we get a little starstruck at the start, but that shouldn't be the case at all.
"The guys in the NCAA aren't that much more stronger, and they're not that much stronger here. It's just that here everybody is so skilled and everyone shoots the ball so well that you can't leave anyone."
Sacre and Olynyk agreed that each team had a distinctive style to which Canada ended up trying to adapt and that going forward the team will need to develop its own style.
Sacre said that style would be "physical and aggressive" - descriptions certainly fitting interior players like Anthony, Levon Kendall of North Vancouver and himself.
"We're like a mixture between the United States and the rest of the world kind of," added Olynyk. "I mean we have guys who shoot it like European players and we have different guys who can break their man down like an American player does."
The Canadians played their third straight game without starting point guard Andy Rautins, son of Leo Rautins and the team's leading scorer last summer. The Knicks draft pick was sent back to New York to have his bruised knee examined ahead of training camp.
Offence wasn't all the team missed from Rautins.
"His leadership from his dad kind of carries down to him a little bit and it's one of those things where it would helped if we'd had him, but that's the game," Sacre said.
"We could have adjusted a little better than we did."
Parrish noted that three other key players weren't available for the tournament in Turkey - San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner, whose application for Canadian citizenship has yet to be approved, plus Carl English and Jesse Young, both out with injuries.
"We have to develop a pool of athletes where when a key guy is hurt or isn't able to play, we need to have the depth where we can absorb that in a way that France and Spain and Lithuania do," Parrish said. "We don't yet have that depth, but when you look at what we have coming from the cadets and the juniors, it doesn't seem a big stretch to think that within a year or two, maybe three, we'll have the depth that we need."
Vasquez made all nine of his field goal attempts, blocked four shots and helped Spain to a 49-28 advantage in rebounds.
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