Canadian basketball men to face No. 7-ranked Greece in quest for Olympic berth
Path to Tokyo will go through NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo in Victoria
Canada's men's basketball team will host Greece, the Czech Republic, Turkey, China and Uruguay in its quest for a Tokyo Olympic berth.
Canada must win the last-chance tournament June 23-28 in Victoria to secure their first Olympic appearance since the 2000 Sydney Games.
The Canadians finished a disappointing 21st at the World Cup this past summer, but was missing many NBA players. Cory Joseph and Khem Birch were the only NBA players to make the trip to China for the tournament, from which seven countries earned automatic Olympic berths. They Canadians are ranked 21st in the world.
No. 7-ranked Greece is led by Milwaukee Bucks star and 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Czech Republic is 10th, Turkey 15th, China 27th and Uruguay 43rd.
Canada is in Pool A with Greece and China, with the top two teams of each pool crossing over to play the semifinals, the winners of which meet in the finals.
The men received a big boost on Tuesday when Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray committed to playing this summer. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker added their names to the list a few hours later.
LETS GET IT🇨🇦 <a href="https://t.co/IQLGdxNLHV">https://t.co/IQLGdxNLHV</a>—@BeMore27
Excited to announce that I’ll be playing for <a href="https://twitter.com/CanBball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CanBball</a> 🇨🇦 this summer. Blessed to be able to represent my country and compete against the best in the world. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid growing up in Toronto. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreTeamCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreTeamCanada</a>—@TheReal_NAW1
Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell and Khem Birch have also said they'll play.
The Canadian women, meanwhile, will face Belgium, Japan and Sweden in their final Olympic qualifying tournament February 6-9 in Ostend, Belgium.
Coach Lisa Thomaidis downplayed Canada's strong chances, saying her team was drawn into a "tough pool."
"You should have to beat some great teams to qualify for the Olympics," Thomaidis said. "(We) will face some good competition with European opponents and a Japanese team that recently beat Australia in the Pre-Qualifiers."
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Host Belgium is ranked ninth in the world, Japan 10th and Sweden 22nd.
The Canadian women were ousted in the quarterfinals in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.