The FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup Champions arrived in Toronto on Monday night to a hero’s welcome.
U19 Team Canada are fresh off a historic World Championship win in Cairo, Egypt. They beat the number one ranked USA team in the Semi-Finals and then defeated Italy 79-60 in the Finals.
R.J. Barrett led the team out of the tunnel at Pearson Airport at approximately 7 PM. A crowd of family, friends and supporters were excited to congratulate Canada basketball’s first-ever gold medalists.
The U19 Team Canada flight over the Atlantic Ocean was delayed nearly three hours. This only made the large gathering of supporter’s enthusiasm even higher to welcome the new heroes home.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in attendance at the airport but congratulated the World Champions on Twitter.
The future of Canadian basketball is bright – congratulations to the men’s U19 team! 🏀 🏆 https://t.co/FdKSy2YVRY
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 10, 2017
The U19’s rightfully received huge national media attention as the tournament progressed. A barrage of media outlets were there waiting for the team as they landed in Toronto. The team’s media attention won’t stop here.
Barrett and Kigab appeared on Breakfast Television Tuesday morning to discuss the historic World Cup win. From there R.J. and his father, Rowan Barrett appeared on TSN’s radio show OverDrive.
— CP24 Breakfast (@CP24Breakfast) July 11, 2017
Speaking with North Pole Hoops, R.J. and Rowan Barrett believe Canada’s depth and each player buying into Head Coach Roy Rana’s system is how they finished as champions.
“If you’re going to win it all, you need a team. People that are going to be willing to set a screen and roll, people that are going to be willing to pop out and shoot. Whatever your role is, to do that without ego, that is how you win at the highest level. I think this team was a great example of that,” said Rowan Barrett, Vice President and Assistant GM of Canada Basketball.
“We had a great team and they made my job really easy. We just racked up the wins together. It’s a really great feeling,” said R.J. Barrett.
R.J., from Mississauga, ON., averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists (38 points against the U.S.) to earn MVP honours.
Nate Darling from Bedford, NS was a huge spark off the bench for Team Canada. Not only did Darling get a warm welcome at the airport but also from his UAB teammates.
We've got a World Champion back in #Blockingham 🥇
— UAB Men's Basketball (@UAB_MBB) July 11, 2017
“People just knew their roles. We had Lindell (Wigginton), one of our best scorers, so when we needed a bucket we give him the ball. I did my role, I stayed ready to shoot, always open. Guys accepted (their role) and that’s what you have to do to have a gold medal team and we did that to perfection,” said Darling
Canada came into the tournament as underdogs to win gold and to also beat the USA. Darling and teammate Abu Kigab believe that makes the feeling of winning even sweeter.
“You could see us screaming the whole time. Pure emotion. It was just an unbelievable feeling, beating the U.S., being the underdogs and coming home with the gold. It’s surreal,” said Darling.
“That was the first time they (USA) lost in about seven years, so just being the first Canadian team to make history by beating the U.S. in that age group, it’s just a blessing and an unbelievable feeling,” said Kigab.
“The last three to four days have been one surreal moment after another and here we are again with another one. They epitomize everything a team should be,” said Rana.
To see the full coverage of the U19 Canadians arrival and more, check out North Pole Hoops on Youtube.