TORONTO–This year, the Red & White Game of the Junior Men’s National Team had none of the late-game heroics of the 2012 contest. The white team won in convincing fashion by the score of 73-55, but that’s not to say that the event wasn’t successful.
Once again in 2013, Canada basketball gathered at Ryerson University in early June. This year, the FIBA U19 World Championship later this month looms large for the players, and this Red & White Game was an ultimate occasion to impress the coaching staff and to put into practice the teachings of the previous days of training. “It was refreshing to have a game,” Team White’s Duane Notice said, “after having training camp and practices for so long.”
That said, the final score doesn’t tell the whole tale of this contest—because for a while, it was close. In fact, it’s Team Red that started the game with the advantage and led throughout most of the first quarter until Notice beat the buzzer to give his Team White a 16-15 advantage after 10 minutes of play.
The teams traded buckets (and turnovers) in the second quarter and, with his team up 26-25, Notice took over. He scored baskets, got steals, rebounds or made assists to lead the Team White on a 16-5 run to close that was capped by an Agunwa Okolie floater at the half time buzzer. Simply put, Notice was the most valuable player on the floor, as he produced with efficiency.
The intensity was high, probably because everyone understood that this game was part of the selection process—that this game, though meaningless, could be full of meaning for whomever took advantage of the opportunity.
“I’m super happy, the guys are playing as hard as they can and giving it everything that they can for their country,” Head Coach Roy Rana said.
“These are long days for (the players) and long days for us, but they’re loving and embracing the experience, and I’m loving coaching them right now.”
The score was 42-30 at the half, and Notice had been the best player on the floor in the first 20 minutes of play. “I’m just excited to play in the world championships. I played two years ago,” he said, “and I didn’t value it as a little kid but now that I’m older, I value it and appreciate it much more.”
At the start of the third quarter, Xavier Rathan-Mayes introduced himself to the Kerr Hall Gym crowd with a pair of back-to-back three-pointers that cut the Team White lead in half. Right then, it seemed like the back and forth of the first half would be there for the second too—but it was short lived, as the white team built a lead it managed and would never relinquished until the final buzzer.
If twenty players suited up for the 2013 Red & White game, one shone by his absence—Andrew Wiggins. The World’s No. 1-ranked player was believed to originally be part of the FIBA U19 World Championship, but he decided against it to focus on an important upcoming year at Kansas University.
Rana reflected on Wiggins’s decision. “Obviously, that changes the way we play a little bit, but I think we have enough proud Canadian toughness in this group that our goals don’t change,” he said. “This is a really humble group (and) very patriotic.”
Notice, for his part, thinks that this group is good enough with or without Wiggins. “This year, I truly believe that we have a great chance to do something special,” he said. “We’re not tough alone, we’re tough together.”
The 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship gets under way in Prague on June 27 and runs until July 7. The Canadian team is in Group A along with Croatia, Korea and Spain.
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Trey Lyles: 13 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist
- Xavier Rathan-Mayes: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals
- Duane Notice: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
- Joe De Ciman: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG & NPH @Northpolehoops