THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Winning a bronze medal at the recent FIBA Americas under-18 championship in Brazil as an assistant coach with the Canadian team, was similar to other firsts in the basketball career of Morell native Scott Morrison.
“It was a great honour to represent Canada,” said Morrison, currently head coach of the men’s basketball team at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. “The feeling I had when putting on the Canadian polo (shirt) for that first game was similar to how it felt to warm up for my first (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) game as a player at UPEI in ’95 or give that first pre-game speech as a rookie head coach for Lakehead back in 2003. I am very grateful to everyone who played a part in allowing me this opportunity.”
The eight-team tournament was divided into two pools, with Canada grouped with Argentina, Colombia and Puerto Rico.
The other pool included the U.S., Brazil, the Virgin Islands and Mexico.
Playing a game each day, Canada amassed a 3-0 record in round-robin play to set up a crossover game with Brazil.
In a hotly-contested match in front of a sellout crowd, Canada fell 66-62 to the Brazilians, despite holding a five-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Had Canada won it would have faced the highly-touted Americans for the gold medal.
Instead, the Canadians faced Argentina, who were dispatched by the Americans in their crossover game.
In the bronze-medal game, the Canadians prevailed 68-66 in a contest that saw a physical Argentine team battle back from a late-game deficit only to miss on a last-second shot attempt.
Reflecting upon the team’s performance, Morrison was impressed with the grit the Canadian players showed throughout the tournament.
“As coaches we were very pleased with our players’ ability to stay focused during a long grind, as well as display an excellent amount of toughness and teamwork on the court.” he said. “Battling teams like Brazil and Argentina is not an easy task, especially in a hostile playing environment during the Brazil game. To go 4-1 in this type of tournament with our only loss to a home country is a huge accomplishment and one that should provide a great deal of momentum leading into next year’s world championships.”
The entire process was an unbelievable experience for me personally and I enjoyed every minute. - Scott Morison
Prior to the tournament, Morrison worked with the Canadian players in Toronto at a three-way training camp.
The team’s preparation included several practices, film sessions and two controlled scrimmages, including one against NCAA players such as Kevin Pangos and Anthony Bennett.
The camp also featured the Red-White intersquad game where Morrison coached the White squad that edged out the Red team with a late fourth quarter score by point guard Tyler Ennis.
The Red-White game was played at Humber College in front of a capacity crowd that was eager to see the stars of the future such as Andrew Wiggins and Trey Lyles.
Arriving in Brazil a few days before the tournament allowed for two more controlled scrimmages against Brazil and the U.S.
Canada’s 4-1 record at the tournament qualified it for the FIBA under-19 championships next year in the Czech Republic.
“The entire process was an unbelievable experience for me personally and I enjoyed every minute,” said Morrison, whose father George is currently head coach of the Holland College Hurricanes men’s basketball team in Charlottetown.
“I have a great deal of respect for the players who all worked hard and were very coachable throughout the month we were together. The amount I learned from coach (Roy) Rana and the other members of the staff was immeasurable and I am excited to start applying some of the new knowledge and concepts to our program at Lakehead.”
From Hugh Mullally, sports information director at Lakehead University