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  • Writer's pictureWayne Dawkins

Part 4 – The Implosion Before the Explosion of Canadian Basketball

Grassroots Canada & U.S.A. Jr National Team

Grassroots Canada Silver Medal 2001 World 18U’s in Douai, France

In June of 2001, the Grassroots Canada basketball team returned from France with a silver medal won at the prestigious 2001 World 18U Junior Basketball Tournament in Douai (Northern France). The team representing Canada was made up of players from Jane & Finch, Rexdale, Regent Park and Jungle as well as a few ballers from Markham and Southern Ontario. These fearless warriors, who had never been further than the east coast of North America, battled for Canada winning the silver medal. They defeated both the Argentinian and Polish National Teams before losing a close battle to a U.S.A. Jr. National Team lead by Carmelo Anthony, Sheldon Williams, Juwad Williams and 4 other high school All Americans.

Despite such a heroic performance, the squad and their coaching staff of Wayne Dawkins, Saeed Al Naji, Ro Russell and Sean Johnson returned to a Canadian basketball community that weren’t aware that history had been made. The silver medal was Canada’s highest ever finish at a U18 international men’s competition of such a high calibre. A feat that was only recently surpassed in 2016 when Canada’s Jr. National Team, won their first gold medal at an international competition. The Canadian team was lead by Head Coach Roy Rana, now an assistant Coach with the Sacramento Kings and 2019 #3 pick of the New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

Every sport has a governing body that can define the way that the sport operates through its affiliated clubs and greater sports community. This method can promote a sport globally, in a very successful way, however not without some challenges. Economic pressures limit the governing body’s ability to provide greater access to international competition to more athletes. Also, politics often creates pressures and typically has the biggest impact on the disenfranchised.

International sports events are not only important to a nation’s development but to the personal and athletic development of the individual participants. These events help reduce tensions and play and undeniable role in decreasing anxiety around what the world outside our backyards has in store. International sports events are also helpful to a student athlete’s future career by creating a Global brand recognition.

Grassroots Canada coaches believed in the importance of international competition for the development of our athletes. With the majority of the athletes coming from lower income families and and living the majority of their lives boxed into inner-city neighbourhoods, the opportunity to experience the benefits of international competition wasn’t even a thought for many of them.

Knowing the challenges faced by Canada Basketball the governing body for sport in Canada, Grassroots leaders decided to create the opportunity ourselves. GRC had a very special group of athletes and the timing was perfect. With the financial support of our executives a team was put together from our training centres to represent Canada at the 2001 World 18U Championships Doaui France.

Grassroots Canada – World Junior Championships in Douai France in 2002 Back Row – Wayne Dawkins, Denham Brown, Marlon Pompey, Jermaine Anderson, Janko Mrksic, Mike Hanley, Mike Tuck, Saeed Al-Naji Front Row – Ro Russell, Eugene Kotorobai, Jamie McNeilly, Chris Kraus, Kern Carter, Sean Johnson

It was a tremendous performance by all of the Grassroots Canada players. The standout performers for the Canadian team at the 2001 World Junior Championships were a 10th grade Jamie McNeilly (U. New Orleans) currently assistant coach of Virginia Tech U., Chris Kraus, the 1st, Canadian NCAA Head Coach at his alma mater Stonehill College, Jermaine Anderson (Fordham U.), Canadian national team veteran and international pro and future 2004/2005 NCAA D1 Champion for U.Connecticut and 2006 NBA Draft of the Seattle Supersonics, Denham Brown. Denham won the tournament scoring title finishing with 44pts in the finals against U.S.A. Mike Tuck gave Canada huge bragging rights coming in 1st place in the tournament Dunk competition.

2001 Douai France – Carmelo Anthony and Denham Brown

The tournament was a memorable experience that changed the lives of everyone involved . A brotherhood was formed and many countries got an early glimpse of what the future held for Canadian basketball.

Final Tournament Recap – 2001 World Junior Basketball Tournament in Douai (Northern France)

“Bert attended the last two games of the 2001 World Junior Basketball Tournament in Douai (Northern France) scheduled on Monday, June 4th. Selections of the best players (age 18 and under) in eight countries have participated in this very well organized international tournament. Here are the national teams which took part this year: Argentina, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Poland and USA. It was probably the cream of this basketball generation. Young players who will maybe play for their own country already at the next Olympic Games in Athens and most probably at the 2008 Olympics. Big attendance for the final championship game played in the very nice facilities of the Lycée Corot in Douai. The USA selection played against Canada in this final game. And Bert has had the chance to see an excellent game. In the first quarter, the USA team had some trouble to score as Canadian Janko Mrskic (center, 2,05m) played a tough defense and controlled the air space around the basket. As he had already been during the first two days of the tournament, Denham Brown (forward, 1,98m) was very hot and quick. He lead the Canadian team to a winning first quarter. However, in the second quarter, both US towers Shelden Williams (center, 2,04m) and Craig Forth (center, 2,10 m) took power over the Canadian centers. US team’s fastbreaks were quickly run and ended up with easy baskets by Carmelo Anthony (forward, 2,00m) and DeAngelo Alexander (guard, 1,96m). Score at half-time: 55-48 for the USA. In the second half, US players Carmelo Anthony, shooting from all ranges, and Shelden Williams, defending, blocking shots and running the court very quickly, allowed the USA team to stay in front. Helped by his teammates, Canadian Denham Brown kept on scoring. Thanks to a great basket from mid-court by Anthony on the buzzer at the end of the third quarter, USA could reach a good margin of 9 points (77-68). But Canada came back again into the game. Canadian Jermaine Anderson (guard, 1,87m) helped Brown in scoring this time and Canada was close again. It was only 86-83 for the US team with 5 minutes remaining. The US team finally won the game in the last seconds of the game mainly by forcing points under the basket. If the Polish referee had seen a foul on Denham Brown’s last 3-pointer, the Canadian team could have pushed the USA to overtime. But the final score was fixed on a last dunk by American player Jawad Williams (forward, 2,02m): 102-99 for the United States. Names to remember for the next generations: US duo Carmelo Anthony from Towson Catholic School at Towson, MD and Shelden Williams from Midwest City High School at Midwest City, OK; Argentinean players Matias Sandes (forward, 1,99m) and Emiliano David Maldonado (guard, 1,85m); Lithuanian shooter Petras Salvis (guard-forward, 1,93m) or French local rookie Tahirou Sani (forward, 2,02m). Final results: 1. USA; 2. Canada; 3. Argentina; 4. Lithuania; 5. Croatia; 6. Czech Republic; 7. Poland; 8. France. 3-points contest: 1. Petras Salvis (LIT); 2. DeAngelo Alexander (USA); 3. Fabien Calvez (FRA). Dunk contest: 1. Mike Tuck (CAN); 2. Tahirou Sani (FRA); 3. Jawad Williams (USA).”

If you would like to join the discussion on this blog story listen to our upcoming podcast on the “Implosion Before the Explosion of Canadian Basketball” listen to our podcast “Journey of An Elite 1” or email me to be a guest at

You can also join us on August 11 at the P.H.A.S.E. 1 Journey Awards Gala as we gather to celebrate Canadian Basketball History and acknowledge the significant contributions of several remarkable Canadians who have left a lasting impression on this game

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