TORONTO (FIBA U19 World Championship) - Canada U19 national team coach Roy Rana expects this summer's FIBA U19 World Championship promises to be incredibly exciting after he got a taste of the talent level while in charge of the winning World Select Team at last weekend's 2013 Nike Hoop Summit.
Rana guided the World team to a 112-98 win over a team of the best U19 players from the United States, marking the first time that the international team won back-to-back games.
"It's been phenomenal. Any time you get a chance to work with that type of talent, it's very, very special and something I never envisioned happening. I just had a lot of fun with it," said Rana, who coached the World team for the third straight spring and improved the internationals' record in the annual event to 5-11.
The World side included five players who could appear at the FIBA U19 World Championship taking place in Prague from 27 June to 7 July: Canada's Andrew Wiggins, Sergey Karasev of Russia, Tomas Dimsa of Lithuania, Argentina's Gabriel Deck and Dante Exum of Australia - the last two who were All-Tournament Team members of the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
"If all five of those guys are in Prague, that tournament will just be incredibly exciting," said Rana, whose Canada team will square off against Spain, Croatia and Korea in Group A in Prague.
"They are five of the best players in the world at their age group. Those five guys could challenge for who is the best player in the tournament."
Rana ran down the five players from the Nike Hoop Summit who might dazzle fans in Prague.
"Deck is phenomenally gifted, a versatile player who is just such a gamer. I've had a chance to coach him and coach against him and watch him play over the past three years. He's a very special talent," he said of the Argentinean forward.
"Exum is maybe one of the most electric players I've seen going end to end with the ball in his hands in a very long time. He's a superior athlete, a great young man. He can shoot the ball," said the Canadian who also works as the head basketball coach at Ryerson University in Toronto.
"Dimsa was a great surprise for me. I didn't really know him. Not only can he really shoot the ball, but he's also a phenomenal athlete. He attacks the rim. He's exciting for the fans with all his dunks."
About Karasev - who played for Russia at the 2012 London Olympics - Rana had this to say: "Karasev is a pro already. He plays beyond his years. He knows how to play. He's a very good athlete. He could arguably be the best shooter in the world in his age group. He can really shoot the basketball."
Having coached Wiggins at the last two Hoop Summits as well as the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, Rana is no stranger to what he has to offer.
"I don't think there needs to be said much about Wiggins. He's arguably the best player in the world at his age group. He's easily the best athlete in the world at his age group,” he said.
The coach pointed to the fact that coaching such a great group of players has helped him in guiding the Canada team.
"When you have such a short prep time and so much talent, it reminds you that sometimes it's better to do less than more. Just back away and let the talent express itself," he explained.
"I think that's the one thing that has carried over into my summers with the national team and into my full-time job as a university coach."
Rana also said that having coached the likes of Deck, Dimsa, Exum and Karasev - as well as 2011 and 2012 Hoop Summit World Team member Dario Saric - will at least be a slight help in Prague.
"I think it helps. It gives myself and my staff and my players a little bit of a familiarity there. We're not going into the unknown as much. But it’s not a big help," he warned.
"These guys are great players. Just because I've seen them before doesn't mean we're going to stop them."