CANADA WINS JACK DONOHUE INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC OPENER

The Senior Men’s National Team (SMNT) posted an 81-72 victory over Team Jamaica in the opener of the 2013 Jack Donohue International Classic (JDIC). The two-game exhibition series – named after the famous Team Canada head coach – begins the team’s summer competitive season.

The match began slowly as both teams looked to establish their offensive rhythms. Familiarity soon set in as the Canadians powered to a 29-21 first quarter lead, highlighted by a powerful dunk from Brampton, Ont. native Tristan Thompson. The Jamaican side battled back in the second quarter, thanks in large part to Manchester, Jamaica’s Adrian Uter, who compiled 15 of his team-high 16 points in the game’s opening 20 minutes. At the break, Team Canada was ahead by two slim points at 44-42.

The SMNT slowly built on its lead in the third quarter as the past week’s worth of practice showed promising results on the hardwood floor. The Red and White opened a 62-57 advantage after three periods of play. Heading into the final frame, Team Canada needed a spark to close-out the game and Burlington, Ont. product Brady Heslip gladly answered. Heslip was deadly from beyond the arc as Canada pulled away for the win in front of a loud and supportive home crowd.

Heslip, the Canadian player-of-the-game, finished with 18 points to lead his team, including 12 in the fourth quarter alone. He shot an efficient 70 per cent from the floor and sunk four three-pointers on the night. Levon Kendall of Vancouver, B.C., added 16 for the home side, highlighted by an impressive finish at the rim after a perfect pass from Toronto, Ontario’s Junior Cadougan – who collected a game-high five assists. Thompson corralled eight rebounds on the evening to lead both teams. The game’s full set of statistics can be viewed here

Head coach Jay Triano reflected on the team’s first game-action of the summer, saying that, “We needed to play a game. We’ve been playing against ourselves in practice every day, and to find out where we are – it was good. I thought as the game progressed, we got better so that’s a good sign.” When asked about the process of selecting his team, Triano responded, “Going five-in/five-out for the first half of the game was going to provide an opportunity for our players to get some significant minutes, so we can do an evaluation of them to see if they’re worthy to play for Canada.”

“Everybody wants to be a part of what we’re doing right now and the direction Canada Basketball is going," said Heslip, when asked about the state of hoops at home. "There’s no greater honour than playing for Canada."

Both teams will have a day to review the night’s action before taking the court once again on Saturday for the finale of the annual event. The Jack Donohue International Classic is in preparation for the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, where four nations will earn the right to represent their countries in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.