HAMBURG (FIBA U17 World Championship/ FIBA World Championship) Leo Rautins, head coach of Canada’s senior team hasn’t given up the idea of having Steve Nash on his team for the upcoming FIBA World Championship.
During a two-day visit to the FIBA U17 World Championship in Hamburg, fiba.com had a chance to speak to him.
FIBA: Coach Rautins, what’s the reason for your visit here?
Rautins: I watched the teams of our youth program. I was in San Antonio watching our U19 team qualifying for the World Championship next year. And now I am here to watch our U17 team. Just to make sure that our players are doing what they are supposed to be doing
FIBA: How many games have you seen so far?
Rautins: I have seen three games so far, and there is some impressive young talent. In every country there are some promising young players I saw some impressive talent – great futures.
FIBA: Is there any prospect for the Canadian senior national team?
Rautins: For the senior team – not right away. For down the road – absolutely. Both from our U19 and our U17 team. One kid that is playing here is Kevin Pangos – we took him to Italy with our senior team last year and he is going to have some time with us in practice for sure.
FIBA: Maybe it is an exaggeration, but we felt seeing the young Steve Nash in him playing tonight.
Rautins: You know what, it is just a lot of pressure, because a lot of people are saying that now. My opinion is he is a very good young player – smart – he understands how to play, works very hard. I remember seeing Steve at the same age, and yes - they are very similar. But obviously with now Steve being an NBA MVP it’s a little bit difficult to keep that comparison.
FIBA: You forgive him for missing the last shot to win the game against Germany?
Rautins: You know what – he took the shot – that’s the most important. He is not afraid to take that shot. Real winners take the responsibility.
FIBA: This event is a new one on the FIBA calendar. What’s your opinion about this age category? Is it good for the game?
Rautins: I love it. These kids can play at a higher level and meet teams from around the world. I think it’s great for them. It starts developing their pride to play for their country, they start developing relationships with all the players. Especially for the North Americans, the chances to play on an international level are rare. It is a very important part of their development to become great players.
FIBA: Next Monday marks fifty days to go for the world’s greatest basketball event, the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. How are preparations going for your team?
Rautins: Very good. All our players are committed to playing. Our core group will start training camp on August 3rd. We will play some preparation tournaments and we are very excited to be amongst the 24 best teams in Turkey.
FIBA: Did we get that right? Did you say all your players are committed to play? Even the most famous one?
Rautins (laughs): You never know. That particular player never said no. So – you never know.
FIBA: When will you announce your final roster?
Rautins: By the time we will play the Acropolis tournament in Athens in mid August, we will have a 14-men roster. We have to cut two players after that.
FIBA: What is your expectation for Turkey?
Rautins: I think our realistic expectation for our group would be to go for that second round. Our players want to do a lot more, there is a real belief that they can do more and surprise some people. And that’s important. You cannot accomplish that if you don’t believe that. I think we are becoming a better team every summer .
FIBA: Do you watch the soccer World Cup?
Rautins: I am not a big soccer fan, but it’s big in Canada and a lot of people are following.
FIBA: So what’s your guess for the winner?
Rautins: The Netherlands as a surprise winner. Or it could be Germany’s year. I saw them, they have a very young and talented team.
FIBA: And your guess for Turkey?
Rautins: I think that one of the best teams would be Spain, even without Pau. They have so much balance, size, experience. After that it’s going to be interesting. There are definitely three to four teams that could get there. Evidently the USA, even if they can not count on a team that played together for a long time. They will not have that, but there is still so much talent that they will be one of the top three teams for sure. And you should always count on Argentina and their experience.