TEAM CANADA: RUNNING THE POINT
By: David Stol
ST. CATHARINES, ON (June 14, 2018) - Almost every great offence relies on a great point guard. Someone to distribute the ball, to balance the pace between energetic and controlled, and to lead.
Having one point guard that can do all of these things at an elite level is necessary for success. To have two is truly special. But to have three? That's almost unheard of.
As Team Canada heads into the FIBA U18 Americas Championship semi-finals, that's exactly what the team has discovered over the course of four games, and it's worked out beautifully.
Coming into the tournament it was clear that team captain Andrew Nembhard would be a leader on the team, but as the tournament has progressed both Joel Brown and Jahcobi Neath have emerged as pillars at the point.
"Playing with Andrew and Joel isn't a challenge," said Neath. "It's an opportunity to learn to play with other talented guards and I think we've shown we can all do that so far."
Canada's offence has run to near-perfection with three star point guards sharing the helm, averaging 102.3 points per game while earning a perfect 4-0 record in the tournament thus far.
While Nembhard, Brown, and Neath all have distinctly different playing styles, they share the ball and fit seamlessly, evidence of an unabashed selflessness that allows them to mesh so perfectly together.
"Playing with Joel and Jahcobi makes my job so much easier because I can lean on them and they take pressure off of everyone on the floor," said Nembhard. "I can play off them and they can play off me, we all make each other better."
Nembhard picks his spots meticulously, never rushing, and always allowing the game to come to him. He's proven to be a skilled playmaker but has taken on the scoring load with ease whenever Canada's offence seems to falter. Nembhard has managed to balance scoring and playmaking perfectly, leading the tournament in both points and assists.
Brown uses his unmatched speed and athleticism to dominate on the fast break and be a constant disruption on defence. His frenetic energy and composed demeanor has inspired the team's defence every minute he's on the court.
Neath, meanwhile, has proven himself to be one of the most technically sound guards in the tournament whether he's playing on or off the ball. He's said more than once that head coach Dave Smart's leadership has brought his tactical understanding of the game to an entirely different level and it has shown through the first four games. He's equally capable running off screens to knock down the long-range shot or orchestrating the pick and roll to perfection, in both a primary and secondary ball-handling role.
"I've been playing with and against Andrew since grade seven, so to get the opportunity to play with him again is awesome," said Brown. "We've both known each other for such a long time so we know how to help each other out. There's some things we do similarly and some things we do differently, but it all just comes together and works. I love playing with him."
"Jahcobi and I just get along really well, I like being around him and he makes the game easier for me. He's someone who helps everyone on our team because he just knows the game."
Despite their three-pronged attack and undefeated record through four games, it's going to be a test for the red and white the rest of the way. With three of Canada's best young point guards running the show seamlessly, the top of the FIBA U18 Americas podium is within reach for Canada.
It's not just talent and selflessness that makes these three point guards so successful, but the mentality they each play with - it's a mentality that has manifested itself in the team's identity - a mentality of teamwork.
Click here for full team roster.
Canada's pursuit of a FIBA U18 Americas Championship will continue competing in the semi-finals as they look forward to taking on Puerto Rico on Friday at 8:15 PM.
For the latest updates regarding Canada Basketball and the Americas Championship, follow Canada Basketball on Twitter.