Canada drops AmeriCup opener to Virgin Islands

Brady Heslip, a guard with the Raptors 905, had nine points in Canada's loss to the Virgin Islands on Sunday.
Brady Heslip, a guard with the Raptors 905, had nine points in Canada’s loss to the Virgin Islands on Sunday.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star) | Order this photo  

The rocky road Canada thought it might face with a national men’s basketball team playing together for the first time was immediately evident Sunday night.

A group of inexperienced senior team players augmented by a handful of veterans dropped an 83-71 decision to Virgin Islands at the AmeriCup tournament in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, to open the continental championship.

Nowhere were Canada’s woes more evident than on offence, where they could not get anything going with any consistency. The Canadians missed 25 of 32 three-point field goal attempts (22 per cent) and shot just 17-for-44 from inside the arc. They never led in the second half.

Olivier Hanlan led Canada with 10 points and Brady Heslip and Andrew Nicholson added nine each.

Virgin Islands, coached by former Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Sam Mitchell, shredded Canada with 43 per cent shooting from beyond the arc and was led by veteran Walter Hodge, who had 25 points.

The loss will make it extraordinarily difficult for Canada to get out of the first round of the 12-team tournament. While two teams from its group will advance to the weekend semifinals, Canada will probably have to beat host Argentina and long-time continental nemesis Venezuela to move on.

And while the tournament means little in the global scheme of things, having the opportunity to play two extra games by advancing out of the first round was the main goal for Canada going into the event.

The outcome of the tournament will do nothing to hamper Canada’s chances at qualifying for the 2019 World Cup — that process begins in November — but head coach Jay Triano and interim coach Roy Rana both expect maybe half of this team’s roster to be on that November team.

Canada faces Argentina, and one-time Raptors forward Luis Scola, on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET.