Team Canada went 3-0 in Men’s Basketball pool play at the Pan Am Games by defeating Mexico 96-76 to advance to the semi-finals against the loser between the USA and Brazil. It may seem like a surprise, but Brazil won 93-83 and Canada will now face the US Men’s National Team at 6 pm ET on Friday.
The US couldn’t contain Brazil’s 25-year-old guard Vitor Benite who went off for 34 points by shooting 8-11 from three-point range and once again they find themselves fighting from behind for a shot at Pan Am gold while mired in a 32-year drought.
This isn’t the “A” list from the USA at Pan Am. In fact, NBA players are few and far between on every team at this tournament as the Olympic Qualifier will be held later this summer in Mexico. The teams here are mostly represented by FIBA professionals, college players and Canada even has a recent high school graduate in guard Jamal Murray.
The lack of NBA talent hasn’t meant the Games aren’t well played and hotly contested. Every team is trying to win and players are trying to secure one of the limited spots available with their National Teams at the tournament in Mexico.
Heavy.com sums up Team USA’s chances as:
If the United States is going to end a 32-year gold-medal drought at the Pan American Games, it’s going to be a bunch of college kids and veterans who are going to do it.
There will be veterans playing key roles in Toronto. Ryan Hollins, who is the only active NBA player on the roster, Anthony Randolph, who is still only 26 and at 7’0″ has always boasted an intriguing blend of size and athleticism, and former NBA player Damien Wilkins come to mind. Still, the youth is the most intriguing part of this team.
That’s especially true in the backcourt, which features Melo Trimble, Ron Baker and Malcolm Brogdon, three of the best collegiate guards in the country.
Heavy.com provides detailed bios on the Team USA roster for Pan Am.
Similarly, Canada is relying on a group of National Team veterans and youth. The Canadian stars and future stars from the NBA like Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas and others are mostly expected to be available for Mexico.
Canada’s best players at Pan Am have been NBA players Anthony Bennett and Andrew Nicholson, undrafted three-point shooter Brady Heslip, and high school guard Jamal Murray.
Team Canada veterans Aaron Doornekamp, Carl English and Heslip have provided head coach Jay Triano with a noticeable stabilizing force so far in this tournament. They’ve been in these situations before.
While the USA hasn’t tasted Pan Am gold in over 30 years, Canada has never medaled at this event and are hoping to break that streak as the host Country.