Canada in group with defending champ Spain for the world basketball tournament

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Canada's men's basketball team could have a pair of prominent newcomers wearing the maple leaf when it steps on the floor at the world championships next year.
Former Toronto Raptors forward Matt Bonner is awaiting the rubber-stamping of his Canadian citizenship application while Miami Heat forward Jamaal Magloire is considering a return at long last to the national team.
The two would be welcome additions to a Canadian squad that was drawn in a group with defending champion Spain, France, Lebanon, Lithuania and New Zealand for the world tournament in Turkey.
"Jamaal and I have talked and he has expressed interest and I think like everybody else he's been waiting to see the draw, our schedule. . .," Canadian coach Leo Rautins said on a conference call following Tuesday's FIBA draw. "Jamaal has been extremely positive with the program, with the direction things are going in, and I'm excited about the potential that he may consider playing."
The 31-year-old Magloire hasn't played for Canada since he was 18, regularly turning down offers due to injuries or contract concerns, and he's been widely criticized by Canadian hoops fans for it.
Heading into Tuesday's game against the visiting Raptors, the Toronto native had played in just four of the Heat's 22 games this season, averaging 2.8 points and 2.50 rebounds.
He said before the game that he wouldn't rule out playing for Canada.
"I'm focusing on our season here right now, but I'm open to it," Magloire said.
"I spent some time with Leo when we went up to Toronto. We went out to dinner and there was a national team event that I attended. So there was definitely dialogue. I just haven't made a final decision yet."
Bonner, an American who married a Toronto woman he met while playing for the Raptors, has filed for Canadian citizenship and Canada Basketball officials believe it will be approved in time for the San Antonio Spurs forward to play for his adopted country in Turkey.
"Matt Bonner's addition is going to be a very important piece for us, and he's been extremely eager and excited to put on a Canada uniform," Rautins said. "He's almost like a perfect international player, his style of game. . . he can play all three frontcourt positions and he's a tremendous three-point shooter. He'll fit in very nicely."
The draw, held in an Istanbul hotel, divided 24 teams into four groups of six, with each team playing the other five in their group. After that, the top four teams in each group head into a knockout stage.
Spain is currently third in the world while Canada is 19th. Lithuania is No. 6, New Zealand No. 13, France is 15th, and Lebanon No. 24.
Rautins said Canada's attitude going in is to be "humble and hungry."
"You have to be careful sometimes, if you look at a draw, you say, OK, you have a better chance here, but it doesn't always play out that way," Rautins said. "Being humble and hungry is not conceding anything, it's not lacking confidence, it's just understanding that absolutely every game, it's 40 minutes of your best basketball."
Canada Basketball's plans for preparation include a mini-camp in July, a full training camp in August, plus eight to 10 exhibition games, including a couple in Canada. The team hopes to play a tournament in Europe before the world championships tip off Aug. 28.
"We've been working the past two months trying to put together a plan that is economical," said Wayne Parrish, Canada Basketball's executive director and CEO. "One of the dilemmas that we face is that we don't know what our funding is going to be for next year at this point."
Canada failed to qualify for the world championships in Japan in 2006, which was won by Spain. The Canadians finished 13th at the 2002 world tournament in Indianapolis.
The Canadian women, plus the cadet men's and women's teams also qualified for their respective world championships, making Canada one of just six countries to qualify for all four world tournaments.
The men's world championships run through Sept. 12 in Ankara, Kayseri, Istanbul and Izmir.
Spain, Greece, Argentina and the United States head the four groups.
Argentina is currently the top-ranked basketball country, and the U.S. won the Olympics in Beijing.
The winner of the worlds automatically qualifies for the 2012 London Olympics.

Organizations: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Canada Basketball San Antonio Spurs Istanbul hotel

Geographic location: Canada, Spain, France Lebanon Lithuania New Zealand Turkey Toronto Argentina United States Europe Japan Indianapolis Ankara Kayseri Istanbul Izmir Greece Beijing

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