Canadian men’s basketball coach Jay Triano has seen Brady Heslip hit more than a few shots over the years.
He watched him do it again Thursday night.
The guard from Baylor University, who just happens to be Triano’s nephew, scored 18 points and was named player of the game as Canada defeated Jamaica 81-72 in the opener of the Jack Donohue International Classic.
“I’ve known him his whole life and he’s never lacked confidence shooting the basketball,” Triano said of Heslip. “That’s a great thing. I want him to shoot the basketball when he’s open like that.”
Heslip, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Canadians pulled away, finished the night 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-for-7 from three-point range.
“There’s no greater honour than playing for Canada,” said Heslip, who grew up in Burlington, Ont. “That’s been instilled [in me] my whole life and it’s been my main goal.
“Everybody wants to be a part of what we’re doing right now and the direction Canada Basketball is going.”
Levon Kendall added 16 points for the Canadians, while Jevohn Shepherd chipped in with 12 of his own in the first game of the exhibition showcase being held at the Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Jamaica got off to a quick start with the first four points of the game, but the Canadians came back to lead 29-21 after the first 10-minute quarter.
Canada saw its lead cut to two at the break thanks in large part to Jamaica’s Adrian Uter, who scored 15 of his 16 points in the first half.
The hosts got a spark in the third when Andrew Nicholson, who plays for the Orlando Magic, got tangled up with Jamaica’s Samardo Samuels. Teammates quickly stepped in between the two to prevent things from escalating, but the exchange fired up Canada.
“It was a little chippy out there,” said Canada’s Cory Joseph, a member of the San Antonio Spurs. “We know it’s a physical game in FIBA, especially in the lane and you could see that tonight.”
In addition to the NBA talent suited up to represent Canada, there was plenty of support in the gym with forward Andrew Wiggins, who will play at the University of Kansas this season and is expected to be the top pick in the 2014 draft, among those in the crowd.
“It’s great just to have all of the media hype, and the support of all the fans,” Joseph said. “We’re looking to grow from here. You’ve got to love it, for people to come out and represent our country. We were just trying to put our hearts on the court for them and it was good.”
While Wiggins has elected to spend his summer preparing for his freshman season in the NCAA, he figures to be part of the program’s future.
“Those guys are part of our pool of players,” Triano said. “They’re part of Canada Basketball moving forward. Obviously, I’m happy they’re here and they’re a part of this team. They’re a part of the pool of players that we’re going to move forward with and them getting to watch is educational for them as far as what we need to do and what we’re going to have to do better.”
Canada and Jamaica meet again Saturday night at 7 p.m. for a rematch.