Canada needs 2 straight strong performances

Leo Rautins, courtesy FIBA (leophoto)

Canada’s men’s basketball team will have to find a recipe to correct its sporadic play at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

If they don’t they’ll lose a chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

After bringing an up-and-down 2-2 record out of the preliminary rounds, Canada began the second round against world No. 3 Argentina and suffered a lop-sided defeat but rebounded to steal a two-point victory over Uruguay after giving up a 15-point lead.

“That’s typical for us of late,” said power forward Levon Kendall in an interview with the Toronto Star. “Maybe deep down we’re all entertainers and want to make it interesting for the people back home.”

Leading to Thursday’s meeting with a Panama team that has failed to win a game this tournament. This has proven to be a must-win situation for Canada in order to have a shot at qualifying for the London Games.

In order to get a spot in the final, last-chance Olympic qualification tournament to be held next summer, Canada needs to win and have Uruguay upset Venezuela.

Young Rautins a bright spot

Canada has had some bright spots in the tournament though, including the play of Andy Rautins, son of head coach and Canadian basketball legend Leo Rautins.

The New York Knicks second round draft pick shot 5-for-8 from the three-point line in the team’s preliminary round victory over the Dominican on his way to 15 points, and also scored 18 against Puerto Rico.

Toronto natives Jermaine Anderson, Denham Brown and Jevohn Shepherd have all been heavy contributors for the team. Anderson is third with 64 points and 13 assists throughout the tournament.

Outside of Rautins and Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat, the most notable member of the roster is Corey Joseph, a native of Pickering. Joseph was taken 28th overall in this year’s NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, which has come with expectations for him to perform at the senior national level.

Joseph played well considering his experience and in his 134 minutes of court time, he has scored 26 points and added 12 assists. His defense has been solid though, stealing the ball six times, good for second overall on the team.

Despite a lackluster effort so far at this tournament, coach Rautins is still optimistic about the team’s chances at qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.

Barring a miraculous upset, Canada is expected to beat Panama tomorrow so the team is relying on whether or not Uruguay will have enough gas left in the tank to beat Venezuela.

“You have to wonder what they have left,” Rautins said in an interview with the National Post. “They had a tough loss to the Dominican [Republic.] They had a tough loss to us.”

In order to beat Panama and have a successful run to the Olympics, the team needs contributions from the entire team from the tip-off until the final buzzer.

“We just got sloppy,” Rautins said to the Post about the game against Uruguay. “We still haven’t played a 40-minute game.”

Canada and Panama will start at 10:30 EST tomorrow morning.