Veteran Kelly Olynyk gives Canada’s young core boost in win over Slovenia

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Canada after its win over Slovenia in the Fiba World Cup quarterfinals. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Canada may be led by its young stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett but the team also gets a lift from Kelly Olynyk, who provides much-needed leadership and stability.

The Canadians earned their first-ever semifinal appearance on the World Cup stage after eliminating Luka Doncic and Slovenia, 100-89, at Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday but not without listening to Olynyk’s pep talk.

“I just told them, we’re here, we’re trying to do something Canada basketball has never done and we gotta do it together,” said the  veteran NBA big man after finishing with seven points, five rebounds and four assists.

“We got two more games, we’ll just keep playing the way we play and let the cookie fall where it crumbles.”

Canada has been winning one big game after another in this World Cup, which includes sending defending champion Spain home in the second round a week ago.

Kelly Olynyk Canada Fiba World Cup

Canada’s Kelly Olynyk. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The Canadians take on surging Serbia next on Friday for a place in the final in a game where their young core will have to be at its best yet again if they are to advance to the title game.

“They’re great, super talented, they come to work, play together and put their egos and everything aside from the NBA,” said the 32-year-old Olynyk, who plays for the Utah Jazz.

“They represent their country with pride and passion. That’s what you’ve seen and that’s the reason we’re here right now.”

The backcourt tandem of Gilgeous-Alexander and Barrett dazzled against Slovenia with Gilgeous-Alexander dropping 31 and Barrett, who spearheaded a third quarter breakaway, adding 24.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, another one of Canada’s young guns, also came up big with 14 points built on three triples.



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