Ailing Canadians hope to find some health before world opener

The Canadian Press
8/23/2010 7:09:40 PM
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Just five days before a world championship they've waited eight years to play in, Canada's men's basketball team is hurting.

The Canadians suffered their third straight loss of the Efes Pilsen tournament in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday, defeated 88-76 by Lebanon in a game in which head coach Leo Rautins figures he had just five players at full health.

"It's kind of been a little bit of a MASH unit," Rautins said on a conference call.

Olu Famutimi of Toronto scored 20 points in Canada's final world tuneup game, while Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., added 12 and Toronto's Denham Brown finished with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Now the ailing Canadian squad, which has been hit hard both by injuries to key players -- including Rautins' son Andy -- and a nasty stomach bug, has to hope it can regain at least some semblance of health come Saturday's world opener against Lebanon.

"I pray to God that we do," point guard Jermaine Anderson said. "It's kind of frustrating that the year that we finally make it, we have all these injuries and things happening. But we have four days. . . "

No. 19 Canada is making its first world appearance since 2002, and hasn't qualified for the Olympics since the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

Among the injured: Rautins, who tweaked his surgically repaired left knee in a game Aug. 13 against France in Toronto and hasn't played since, Jermaine Bucknor of Edmonton, sidelined with a sprained ankle, Aaron Doornekamp of Odessa, Ont., who was hurt in Sunday's loss to Turkey, and Toronto's Anderson, who's been on the mend from a knee injury.

"Andy's walking, he's shooting, but there are certain things he's limited to," Leo Rautins said. "We don't want to risk anything. He's dying to play, he's trying. He' better but not at the point where we could say there's no risk."

Andy Rautins, a New York Knicks draft pick and the team's leading scorer last summer, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2007 forcing him to sit out a season at Syracuse University.

Adding to the MASH-unit crush, a stomach ailment went through the team, and several players were still feeling the effects Monday.

"We've had a lot of guys running to the bathroom frequently -- I'll put it that way," Rautins said. "It was a grinder (Monday), there were a couple of guys who did play who we had to watch and make sure they weren't going to pass out or something."

Rautins has until Friday afternoon to declare his world championship roster and figures he'll need every minute until then to determine who'll be healthy enough to play.

"Injuries are going to ultimately determine who makes the team," the coach said.

The Canadians are coming off a gruelling schedule that saw them play three games in Canada before departing for Europe for six games and two travel days in nine days. The team plans to take Tuesday off completely before regrouping for its final preparation for Saturday.

"To be honest (the focus) is just getting everybody healthy," Anderson said. "I just think playing nine games over the short span of days, and all the travel, we're a little banged up, a little tired mentally and physically. It's just being able to regroup, get our preparation and get healthy."

Canada faces No. 24 Lebanon again in the world tournament opener in Izmir, Turkey on Saturday.

The Canadians, in Group D, also face No. 3 Spain, sixth-ranked Lithuania, No. 13 New Zealand, No. 15 France.

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