KEVIN PANGOS PART OF FRESH START
TORONTO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014) - Those involved with the Canada men's program have not been sitting around this summer and feeling sorry for themselves after missing out on the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Caracas, Venezuela.
Unlike 2000, when the Canadians played at the Sydney Games, and unlike 2008 when they travelled to the OQT in Athens, the players didn't get a whiff of the Olympic men's tournament.
This is a squad to look out for next year in Venezuela, though, when teams in the FIBA Americas will battle it out for spots in the very first FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
There will be veterans, but also youngsters who have been representing the country at the highest level in various competitions.
One of them is playmaker Kevin Pangos, a feisty point guard who competes for Gonzaga University in the American state of Washington.
The 1.85m Pangos caught the eye last year at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Riga, Latvia, averaging 13.5 points and 3.1 assists per game.
At Gonzaga as a freshman last November, an 18-year-old Pangos entered Zags folklore by drilling nine three-balls from 13 attempts and scoring 33 points in an 89-81 victory over Washington State.
He proved to be a handful for all of Gonzaga's opponents, just as he has been when wearing the Canada shirt, which he also did at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship.
At that event, Pangos averaged 15.8 points per game as Canada captured the bronze medal.
Following the appointment of Steve Nash as the Canada men's senior team general manager, former national team star Rowan Barrett as assistant G.M. and of Jay Triano as the head coach, Pangos was among those invited to a training camp in Toronto that lasted five days at the end of August.
Every player, including Pangos, had a bounce in his step.
He shared in the belief that good times are coming back Canada.
“I think everyone’s pushing each other, there’s a bigger buzz, more passion for the game of basketball now, we’re not accepting just being okay,” Pangos said.
“It starts from guys like Steve Nash, Jamaal Magloire, a bunch of guys who have played in the league (NBA) and now everyone’s saying, ‘we want to get there, too.’ We don’t want to accept being average (and) it’s contagious."
The camp was important for Canada because Nash, Barrett, Triano and the federation as a whole wanted to send the message that they mean business going into next year's FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas.
It was crucial to let all of the national team hopefuls take some positive vibes into their club campaigns.
Seasons will be long and hard for everyone involved, including Pangos, who hopes to lead Gonzaga into the NCAA Tournament.
But before he and all the other players know it, it will be time to gather again and prepare for Venezuela.
This summer has been a fresh start that Pangos and the rest of Canada needed.
"Everyone’s on the same page and buying into this program and it all starts from the top with Steve, Jay and Rowan," Pangos said.