At the rim

Canada Basketball hoping for wild card spot at 2014 FIBA World Cup

At the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship last September, the hopes of Canada’s men’s basketball team qualifying for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup seemed to vanish.

Needing a top-four finish at the tournament to qualify, Canada lost its final three games to finish in sixth place. It was a bitter disappointment for a country with more NBA players than ever and a rebuilt men’s program with Steve Nash as general manager and Jay Triano brought on for a second stint as national team head coach.

However, FIBA may give Canada a second act.

Canada Basketball has applied to FIBA for one of four wildcard berths into the Basketball World Cup to be held in Spain from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14. Fourteen other countries have also applied, including Canada’s zonal rivals Brazil and Venezuela and top-10-ranked Greece, Russia, and Turkey, who failed to qualify out of the 2013 EuroBasket tournament.

FIBA may create a shortlist of teams for the berths by Nov. 23-24 before making their final decision in February. According to FIBA rules, at least two zonal regions must be represented in the four wildcard berths.

Despite Canada Basketball launching a Twitter campaign to FIBA with the hashtag “#Can4Spain2014,” Canada is in tough for a berth. The number of Canadian players making waves in the NBA and NCAA, as well as better international results in the youth and women’s levels and increased interest in the international game, could sway FIBA’s Central Board.

While basketball is popular in Canada, their 25th world ranking is lower than some of the teams competing for berths. Canada may be suitable according to some of FIBA’s criteria, but not others.

However, how these berths are granted is improper.

The idea that some of the countries chosen to play in the Basketball World Cup would be determined not on a basketball court, but in a boardroom, is dubious at best.

It can be expected that three more European teams will be added as wildcards. Half of the top-24-ranked men’s national teams are from Europe, but, despite only accounting for almost one-quarter of FIBA’s national federations, 10 of its 23 Central Board members hail from Europe – including four out of five executive members. Out of eight wildcard spots given over the past two World Championships, six were given to European nations.

FIBA holds a last-chance qualifying tournament to determine which teams go to the Olympics. Why can it not be the same for the Basketball World Cup? Such a qualifier could be held a month prior to the event, during the NBA off-season. Settling it on the court is a better alternative.

But for now, all Canada can do is wait.