Toronto- Canadian basketball has had an upturn in the last five years, with many Canadian stars finding their way in the NBA. While basketball was invented by a Canadian in the United States, it has taken a long time for Canada to be recognized on the international stage. However, superstars have helped break the barrier and pave the way for Canadian athletes in one of America’s most treasured sports.
Canada has the second most NBA players, only behind the United States; however, the dedication for the country’s national team has not been there. The reason for this is that many players, including high profile ones such as Andrew Wiggins and highly regarded rookie R.J. Barrett don’t show up for the national team. The problems with Basketball Canada are endless and the Canadian national team will have a problem until all of these are fixed; however, this does not mean basketball personalities from north of the border are any less patriotic.
The Toronto Raptors, Canada’s only NBA team show how much Canadians care about the sport, but there is another club where Canadian patriotism is felt: The Sacramento Kings
Just that last sentence is weird. California has more people than the entire population of Canada, yet two Canadians are making their mark on the state’s capital city’s team. Those two Canadians are Roy Rana (the King’s assistant coach) and Cory Joseph (former Toronto Raptor and captain of the Canadian basketball team.)
Roy Rana, who coached 10 years of U Sports basketball with the Ryerson Rams is a groundbreaker in Canada’s international reputation and the Canadian collegiate game (U Sports). He has led the way into the professional game for Canadian coaches, and U Sports as a whole.
Canadian coaches have never found success in the NBA. Few ever make it to that level.
The current coach of the Canadian national team? It’s Iowa born Nick Nurse. Sure, he led the only Canadian team to their first-ever NBA championship (Toronto Raptors 2019) and has adopted Canada as his own, but he is still not Canadian. That’s where Rana is changing things, now in a high position, he is a positive sign for Canadian coaches trying to make it to the NBA.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the NBA, but it’s easier to coach than U Sports.” Rana said in an interview with 49 prior to the Kings’ game against the Toronto Raptors. When asked why he went on to explain how a decade of U Sports coaching taught him everything he needs to know, and that he has developed some skills that coaches through the NCAA will never get.
When comparing U Sports basketball to the NCAA and even the NBA, the differences are black and white. American Division I schools operate at similar levels to professional teams, with a large coaching staff, video analytics team and medical staff. In U Sports, that is far from the truth.
The 2019-20 season coaching staff at the Ryerson Rams consists of a head coach and two assistants, less than half the size of the Kings.
“With so much support, I can focus on one thing, with some select players and we can really improve, I loved U Sports and love this job now, but they are very different.”
After Rana shared his thoughts, so did Joseph. “We see all these Canadians finding their way into the game, now that Roy is here is just opening up another pathway for Canadian success int he NBA.”
People like Rana are foundational figures in bringing more attention to the Canadian game. For players, it has been established, for coaches the pathway is just begging and that begins in Sacramento.
In Rana’s interview with 49, Cory Joseph jumped in vivaciously and interrupted his fellow Canadian. The two share a special relationship, both being raised in Toronto and having ties to the Canadian basketball scene. They were friends before working alongside each other in California, but the time they have spent together, even just though preseason has created an unbreakable bond, something that is not common in a player-coach relationship.
In their first preseason with the Kings, they travelled to India to face the Indiana Pacers in a pair of exhibition games. The trip was very controversial and takes some responsibility for the Kings 2-5 start to the NBA season. For Rana, it gave him a chance to show Joseph and the other players his culture.
Rana is of Indian heritage and was raised in an Indian household in Toronto. He is very familiar with the culture and cuisine, much more than some of his payers, such as the aforementioned Joseph. The pair of Canadians spent time together while the Kings were in India.
“We went to the Taj (Taj Mahal) together, we didn’t have much time for dinner but I made him eat some stuff he may not have heard of. We had some surreal moments in India” said Rana when asked about the trip.
As for the food, that was a fun experience the two of them shared. Joseph spoke about his experience with Rana, saying “Toronto is very multicultural, so I thought I had eaten Indian food before, but some of the stuff Roy introduced to me was very spicy, I think butter chicken can burn, so this was exciting.” before going on to say, “I didn’t know what some of the food was!”
Rana still has not told Joseph what he ate in India.
The India trip has taken a toll on the King’s success. The flight to India is a lengthy one, far longer than any regular road trip. With two games in four days, combined with jet lag and travel, Sacramento was not able to prepare as well for the season another NBA teams. After the string of five defeats to start the year, the Kings are on a two-game win streak heading into their matchup with Toronto, a game that will be meaningful for the two Canadians regardless of the result.
The pair are leading the pack for Canadians in the NBA, bringing Canadian basketball the attention it deserves. Who knows, maybe one day Rana will be promoted to a head coach, or even stand on the sidelines of the national team at a major tournament.
Canadian basketball is primed to explode, if it hasn’t already, with the combination of Roy Rana and Cory Joseph leading the way.