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A familiar Canadian basketball team about to begin march to the worlds

We’re about to see some of the benefits to Canada Basketball’s devotion to its age-group developmental programs while also catching up with some old, familiar names that you once again should start paying attention to.

The senior women’s team – the gold standard for the national organization for more than the last decade – takes its next step towards next summer’s world championships at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in Buenos Aires starting Sunday.

You remember this team, right? Quarter-finalists at the last two Olympics – and losing to France and missing a chance to win a medal at Rio was a crushing upset – and fifth at the last world championships.

They are, were and, I would suspect, will be, very good, even in what’s going to be a bit of a transition year.

Six players from Rio – the talented guard trio of Miah-Marie Langlois, Kia Nurse and Nirra Fields, the frontcourt of Miranda Ayim, Michelle and Katherine Plouffe – are back and that alone should assure Canada gets one of three worlds spots out of the 10-team tournament that runs for a just over a week.

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(Canada’s the defending champion after the 2015 win in Edmonton and there’s no reason to think they won’t repeat)

But the story, at least what I took away from a quick conversation with coach Lisa Thomaidis this week, is that the relatively seamless integration of six new players into the team is a testament to the overall depth of talent in the country and the importance the group puts on junior and cadette teams.

I’m told the women play a more up-tempo, athletic game than they have in the past  — that would seem to fit with the type of talent they have if my memory serves – and even losing half the Rio roster shouldn’t be a crippling blow.

It’s gotten to the point with basketball in Canada that if any of our national teams don’t qualify for the worlds out of FIBA Americas events it should be seen as a colossal failure; maybe it’s finishing second to the United States when they are in the event but we should be consistently the second best team in the region. The American women are not in Argentina by virtue of being Olympic and world champions and while I don’t suspect it will be as easy for the Canadian women to win this tournament as it was to triumph at home in Edmonton two years ago, taking the gold medal is the legitimate and logical goal.

We’ve been pointing out for years that the women’s program overall has been light years ahead of the men globally; they might not have the recognizable names to a lot of you but they do have dedicated athletes who buy into the program wholeheartedly and who don’t think twice about giving up large chunks of many summers to represent Canada.

We’re still trying to figure out if any of the women’s games – they start Sunday afternoon and the tournament winds up a week later – will be available on television here or even on the computer but we’ll let you know on the tweeter machine and you should get in on the ground floor with another very good team.

I see this guy’s 91 years old today.

I’d sign that scorecard in a second.

I know this little piece of interweb turf has been a bit hard to find of late – we’re doing some things around the office and Our Friend Tash and the rest of her helpers tell me it’s going to work out fine – but, man, have you ever fallen down on the mail thing this week.

So get cracking, people. There must be something on your mind, right? Drop a line, a missive, a note, a plea, a compliment, whatever to askdoug@thestar.ca and we’ll get a full mailbag for Sunday morning.

At the moment, it’s like six questions and I can knock that off in a pint or two and since I have aspirations of a late-afternoon session with my friends at the local (Hi, Jack Astor’s Square 1) keeping me occupied should be one of your goals.


Oh yeah, we’ll be looking for Victoria locals next month for sure but if you want to start building the list now, I’m all ears.

And, yeah, Honolulu’s booked and I expect that to be not too shabby at all, as is the decision by the NBA to drastically cut back on the number of exhibition games each team will play.

Five for Toronto is still one too many but I can live with it.

It’s too bad they’ve had to take a year’s hiatus from the games in Canada but squeezing camps to extend the regular season kind of came up at relatively the last minute and that’s a casualty.

And with no disrespect to Vancouver, where we’ve had lots of good times the past few falls, I’m quite fine with going somewhere different.

Canadians Doing Tremendously In Global Sports Competition Alert:

A handful of Canadians – including the women’s team of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes that’s been basically dominant this entire season – are creeping towards the medal podium at the world beach volleyball championships.

I think one of the women’s quarter-finals might be going on now but if you click on this link you can find a way to stream it and find out for sure.

Beach volleyball’s one of those sports we don’t pay a lot of attention to in between summer Olympics but any time any Canadian team is close to a world championship podium, we should.

We’ll try to keep track of it on the tweeter machine today and tomorrow but if you want stay attached yourself, now you know how.

And check out the name of the one Brazilian man the Canadians will face.

Bruno Oscar Schmidt.

If that’s not the most dichotomous basketball name in the history of names, I can’t imagine what is.

We all have known for years about Masai Ujiri’s good and important works in Africa, it is a rite of the summer.

We’ve said annually that it’s not only the basketball side of the work his Giants of Africa Foundation does or the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program or the now second annual exhibition game that goes Saturday in Johannesburg that he and the league should be so proud of.

It’s the other parts of it, the educational programs, the business teachings, the social outreach, all the other stuff that they do that’s so vital.

And it’s been such a bedrock of what Ujiri is that having two of his players with him this year – Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka – are sure to come away with a new appreciation for how important it is.

That, more than sightseeing or the exhibition game is the reason the trip is so important.