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MANILA, Philippines – With the way Canada has been tearing apart the opposition in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, one would think the program had always been a world power in international competition.
That, however, is not the case – at least not yet – but the progress so far has been more than promising with numerous NBA standouts giving their all in each passing game.
Among those rising stars in the international arena is New York Knicks swingman RJ Barrett, who made waves in Canada’s gritty 100-89 quarterfinal ouster of Luka Doncic-led Slovenia.
“I think we’re showing that we’re such a hardworking team. We’re a hardworking team that when we come together, do the right things, and listen to what coach is telling us to do, then we can be special,” he said in the postgame presser.
Behind NBA All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s consistent output and Dillon Brooks‘ frustrating defense on Doncic, Barrett nearly singlehandedly engineered Canada’s breakaway, scoring 13 of his 24 points in a pivotal third-quarter rally that all but put the game away for good.
As Barrett put it, Canada’s strength lies in those kinds of streaks, where no single player has a definite hold on the game’s flow at any given time.
“I think what you see from our team is that it can be anybody. Of course, Shai is the head of the snake, he’s always going to do what he does, but just in terms of everyone else, last game it was Dillon, then the game before that, Lu [Dort] played well,” Barrett continued.
Already in the middle of its best World Cup run in history, Canada likely has more in store as it aims for a spot in the podium, or the coveted gold, even, if the stars align in its favor.
“Like I said, we’re just a hardworking group of guys,” Barrett continued. “We compete and we want to win.”
“We want to win every time we step on the floor, not only for ourselves, but for our country. I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”