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Canada Basketball Ends 23-Year Olympic Drought with Historic Win over Spain

Dillon Brooks & Shai Gilgeous-Alexander via FIBA

Canada's men's basketball team has made history by qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics after defeating Spain 88-85 in the FIBA World Cup on Sunday. This is the first time Canada has reached the Olympics since 2000, ending a 23-year drought that had frustrated fans and players alike for decades.

The game was a thrilling back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading leads and momentum throughout. Spain, ranked No. 1 in the world, had a 12-point advantage in the fourth quarter, but Canada rallied behind the stellar play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 30 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out seven assists. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard also hit the go-ahead free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the win for Canada. Not to mention the Michael Jordan-esque jumper at the top of the key that, as Canadian basketball writer Jonathan Chen deemed a "Canadian Heritage Moment" on Twitter.

Canada also got a huge boost from the Mississauga natives, Dillon Brooks, who added 22 points and five rebounds, and RJ Barrett, who chipped in 16 points and five rebounds. Canada shot 51.5% from the field and 45.8% from the three-point line, while holding Spain to 34.6% from beyond the arc. A testament to our defensive identity and the length we have on the perimeter.

Spain was led by Willy Hernangomez, who had a team-high 25 points and six rebounds, and Santi Aldama, who scored 20 points off the bench. Spain's veteran stars, such as Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llulland and Victor Claver, struggled to find their rhythm and combined for only six points on 2-of-15 shooting.

The win was a historic achievement for Canada, which had failed to qualify for the Olympics in six consecutive attempts since 2000. Canada had also taken to Spain earlier this summer in overtime, and the World Cup victory completes the sweep of #1 ranked Spain in 2023, just the cherry on top of making the Olympics.

Canada's new coach Jordi Fernández who also coaches the Sacramento Kings in the NBA, praised his team for their resilience and determination.

"If you were to tell me a month ago that we'd be playing against Spain to go to the quarterfinal and it's up to us to win the game & advance, I would've taken it"

says Jordi Fernandez prior to the game against Spain in a video posted by Alex Adams who covers the Canadian SMNT for Raptors Republic. And Jordi did just that, he has led Canada to the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup.

Canada will now advance to the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup, where they will face Slovenia on Wednesday morning. Slovenia is another powerhouse team that features NBA star Luka Doncic from the Dallas Mavericks.

Canada will also look forward to competing in the Olympics next year, where they will join 4 other teams who have clinched a berth, USA, South Sudan, Japan & Australia. The remaining spots will be determined during the FIBA World Cup & by regional qualifying tournaments in June 2024 (FOQTs).

Canada has a talented roster that features several NBA players, such as Gilgeous-Alexander, Brooks, Barrett, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Luguentz Dort. Canada also has some promising young prospects, such as Zach Edey, who travelled with the team but hasn't contributed much thus far. Also other NBA guys like Shaedon Sharpe, Ben Mathurin & Leonard Miller are some names who could make an impact in the future, possibly even in Paris. Not to mention NBA champions in their own respects, Jamal Murray & Andrew Wiggins. The latter actually send a cryptic tweet out after Canada's victory & a lot of people are saying he would play with Canada if they'd have him.

Talking with some of the scouts here at The Maple Minute & I asked them about their reaction to Canada making the Olympics for the first time in 23 years, here's what they had to say:

Essentially making the Olympics vindicates the programs three year plan that they had put in action. There is really no better way to showcase your most talented athletes than on the World stage. Most importantly out of everything making the Olympics would change the narrative of Canadian Basketball players not wanting to participate in National Team tournaments. This is an amazing achievement for a National Team program that has put in a lot or time and effort to achieve the ultimate goal.

Elliot Russenholt, Scout at The Maple Minute

After defeating Spain in a dramatic FIBA World Cup contest, Canada's men's basketball team won a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who led the team to victory with 30 points, was a memorable player. Notably, other players such as Dillon Brooks and RJ Barrett were also crucial to Canada's win.

Jon Munyakazi, Scout at The Maple Minute

This accomplishment is important since it comes after losses by Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and it reaffirms Canada's place as a major basketball nation in the Americas. The depth and talent of the team were obvious, and their perseverance in overcoming adversities demonstrated their determination. Canada's path to the Olympics symbolizes a watershed moment in the country's basketball history, establishing a well-deserved place among the world's elite.

Jon Munyakazi, Scout at The Maple Minute

Canada's best Olympic result in men's basketball was a silver medal in 1936, when the sport made its debut at the Games. Canada has not won a medal since then, but with this historic win over Spain, they have shown that they are ready to compete with the best in the world and make their mark in Paris. But first Slovenia, 8 AM Eastern. Set your alarms.

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