Denham Brown a no-show at Olympic basketball tryout
The Canadian men's training camp kicked off Friday without key player
The Canadian men's Olympic basketball team training camp kicked off on Friday with a surprising no-show.
Denham Brown, a three-year national team player, was absent from the first tryout, held at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
"It's not a good day not to be here," said head coach Leo Rautins. "We've got a very talented group of guys, but if you look at the numbers, we've got to get down to 12."
Twenty-two players were invited to the training camp but 10 will be cut. The team competed with 12 players at an earlier Olympic qualifying tournament, but Rautins said three of those spots were "variable."
Rautins said there had been communication "across the board" with each of the players who had been invited to try out.
Of Brown's surprise absence, Rautins said, "I don't know, in today's communication age, with e-mail and cellphones, I just don't know," he said, checking his phone.
When asked if missing the first tryout would have any consequence, Rautins replied, "I think Denham made that decision, not me."
The coach added that the six-foot-five Toronto native also missed team meetings held earlier in the day.
Denham was a key player for Team Canada in the FIBA Americas Championship in 2007, when the Canadians finished fifth out of 10 teams. He currently plays for Tisettanta Cantu, a team in Italy.
Rautins said he was pleased with the "enthusiastic attitude" of the players who were at the practice, noting the return of Rowan Barrett, who played for Team Canada in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, was "tremendous."
"How he sets up shots and goes through the drills, everything about him is professional," he said.
Barrett was just as pleased to be back.
"It feels great, it's exciting. There's a lot of emotion, I'm proud...The opportunity to qualify, to make history, doesn't happen everyday."
Rautin's son, Andy, who has been on the national roster for three years, is also vying for a spot on the Olympic squad. The coach said his priority is always the well-being of the team.
If it wasn't, he said, it would "compromise the relationship [I have] with other players for the wrong reason."
Also at training camp is Samuel Dalembert, a six-foot-11 centre who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.
On Denham's absence, Dalembert said, "We'd love to have anybody that can help us. I don't know what happened yet."
He added that the team's focus would be on strengthening its defensive game.
Canadian basketball fans will have the chance to see the men's team in action from June 30 to July 5. As part of the Jack Donohue International Classic tournament, Canada will face Lebanon and New Zealand in a series of exhibition games in Toronto and Hamilton, Ont.
In mid-July, the men's team will compete at a last chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Athens, Greece. Twelve countries will battle it out with only the top three advancing to Beijing.
Canada will open the tournament with games against Slovenia and South Korea.