Canadian men unbeaten after second FIBA qualifier window
SANTO DOMINGO Less than two minutes into Sunday’s game, Kyle Wiltjer was hot.
He nailed a three-pointer, then pulled up and hit another. Then he made a layup afterwards for good measure.
The 29-year-old scored eight of Canada’s first 10 points to send his team off on a 10-4 run to begin its FIBA World Cup qualifying game against the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Wiltjer ended up scoring a game-high 24 points as the Canadian men’s basketball team closed its second window of qualifying, routing the Virgin Islands 94-46 Sunday to remain undefeated and advance to the second round of the qualifiers.
He drilled six three-pointers in the win as Canada, in general, shot the lights out from deep, going 15-of-33.
“We have a program where it doesn’t matter who’s scoring or who’s doing what because we just have an unselfish team,” said Wiltjer after the game over video conference. “But when I get in a rhythm, the basket feels really big and I just try to be aggressive and do what I do well.”
Through the four games he’s played for Canada, Wiltjer has averaged a team-high 21.8 points per game while shooting 57.4 per cent from the floor and 56.7 per cent from long distance.
Defensively Sunday, Canada was solid, holding the U.S. Virgin Islands to 26.7 per cent shooting from the floor while turning them over 19 times.
The Canadians led the Virgin Islands by as much as 51 in the contest.
Canada beat the Dominican Republic on Saturday, 85-79, in the first of this two-game qualifying window.
With the 48-point victory over the Virgin Islands, Canada now carries an overall point differential of plus-132 through four qualifying games.
Rakeem Christmas, who’s had a cup of coffee in the NBA before, led all Virgin Islands scorers with 15 points.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup will begin Aug. 25, 2023, hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.
Reaching The FIBA World Cup is an important first step in reaching the 2024 Paris Games. A good part of Olympic qualification is directly tied to World Cup results.
Playing in the second of a six-window process, Canada is now 4-0 so far in its qualifying campaign and atop of Group C in the Americas qualifiers as the only undefeated team in the group and the first to clinch a berth into the second round.
“We’re pleased but we look to the future and we’re gonna take one game at a time,” said Wiltjer about advancing to the second round of qualifying. “But we’re not satisfied because I’ve been to the World Cup and it’s an incredible event and we want to get back there. So, all hands are on deck trying to get there and, in the end, we want to go to the Olympics as well.
“So, we have big goals for the program and this is the time to do it.”
Canada will next play in the third qualifying window on July 1 and 4, once again against the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands, at a location that is still to be determined.