Two GTA sisters will be playing in their first world basketball championship when Canada opens its 2010 tournament on Thursday.
Tamara and Alisha Tatham, from Brampton, Ont., are members of a team looking to improve upon a 10th place finish four years ago.
This year’s worlds run from Sept. 23 until Oct. 3 in the Czech Republic. Canada will be playing all three of its round-robin games in Ostrava.
The Tathams are part of a youth movement for the red-and-white, as all but three players on the roster will be participating in their first worlds at the senior level.
Only veterans Teresa Gabriele, Kim Smith, and Chelsea Aubry played in 2006.
Both Tamara and Alisha do bring international experience to the event. The 25-year-old Tamara played for Canada in the 2007 and 2009 FIBA Americas tournament, while younger sister Alisha, 23, has played in various junior events.
Tamara also plays professionally for TSV Wasserburg in Germany.
Head coach Allison McNeill says the team is looking forward to the start of the tournament.
“It would be nice to continue to build on our recent success,” she told the Canadian Press. “When we qualified in 2005 for the 2006 worlds, we were pretty jacked up about that. To do it again, for the players that are playing in their second worlds, it will be pretty exciting.”
Tough draw for Canada
Given the inexperience of the team and the strong group Canada has been put in, it could be difficult for the country to advance. The Canadians are currently ranked 12th in the world and face two teams placed ahead of them.
They’ll first play Australia, the defending world champion and No. 3-ranked nation.
Next they’ll take on China, ranked seventh in the world.
The Canadians’ best chance at a win comes in their final match when they play the 16th-ranked Belarus.
However, Canada lost to the Belarusian team in their last meeting, in an exhibition game on Sept. 11. The final score was 63-58.
McNeill told the Toronto Star that the team recognizes they’re in a tough group.
“If you just looked on paper, individually we’re not better than these teams,” she said. “But if you’re playing together and working hard, good things will happen.”
Canada played its final preparation games in Greece on Sept. 18 and 19, both losses. A week earlier they earned one victory in a three-game exhibition tournament in France.
The Canadians feel they’ve done everything possible to prepare.
“You really do have to go in rested, you want to peak at the right time,” McNeill told the Canadian Press. “I’m happy with our prep, I really feel like we’ve done the right things.”
Sept. 23 at 9:15 a.m. ET vs. Australia
Sept. 24 at 7:00 a.m. ET vs. China
Sept. 25 at 12:00 p.m. ET vs. Belarus