Canada’s head coach Lisa Thomaidis looks on as they play China in the preliminary round of women’s basketball action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s head coach Lisa Thomaidis looks on as they play China in the preliminary round of women’s basketball action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s goal is to play in a medal game at World Cup in Spain

The 2014 women’s world basketball championships were a coming out party for Canada.

The 2014 women’s world basketball championship was a coming out party for Canada. The Canadians roared past France and China in the elimination round in Turkey, finishing fifth in Lisa Thomaidis’s world debut as the team’s head coach.

“That 2014 worlds was really a huge moment for us,” Thomaidis said. “It was a bit of a ‘here we are’ kind of moment, like we’re coming on the scene and making people stand up and take notice.”

The four years since their best world championship finish in 28 years have seen Canada solidify its spot among the world’s top teams, and on Saturday, Canada tips off the World Cup in Tenerife, Spain ranked a program-high fifth.

“I think we probably took some teams by surprise at that point in time,” Thomaidis said. ”But 2014, not too many expectations, and 2018 I would say there’s quite a few expectations.”

Indeed, Canada has been mentioned as a legitimate medal contender. The team’s target is to win a quarterfinal game, a step the Canadians have not been able to take since the team’s bronze at the 1986 world championships.

It’s a far different team than took the floor four years ago. Several veterans retired after Canada’s heartbreaking seventh-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Several young players such as Kia Nurse, Nirra Fields and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe have injected a big dose of athleticism. Once known as a strong defensive team, they’ve allowed Canada to push the pace on both ends.

“We were holding our own (in 2014) with the past style of play, we were very disciplined at both ends of the floor, we weren’t playing with a very fast pace, but we were disciplined and we were locked in defensively,” Thomaidis said. “In terms of personality, in terms of style of play, we’re quite different from that 2014 team. Trying to play much more up-tempo, trying to extend our defence, and having some dynamic players on the roster certainly changed the way we’ve been able to play, so that’s been fun.”

The Canadians open the 16-country tournament versus No. 20 Greece on Saturday, then play South Korea (No. 16) on Sunday, and France (No. 3) on Tuesday.

Canada is taking no team lightly. The World Cup is “such a tough competition,” Thomaidis said.

“There’s no easy games, so it is tough to do well in this tournament, as it should be, it’s the world championships. Teams that do well have to string together a number of very very solid games, and there’s no chance to get through if you’re not playing really well. And that really applies to us. When we’re good, we can be pretty good. When we’re not playing well, we can be beat by anyone. So that’s sort of the challenge that we’re faced with right now.”

Canada faces a Greek team that’s led by 39-year-old Evina Maltsi, a former WNBA player and Eurobasket MVP. Greece, said Thomaidis, can “really ride the emotion, and put together a very strong game.”

The Canadians expect their stiffest test to come against archrival France, which dispatched Canada in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics. The two met in a friendly last week, the French fighting off a fourth-quarter rally to beat Canada 72-68. Neither country though showed its full hand.

“They looked like they had a pretty small playbook … they really are just kinda playing with you, and seeing what you’re doing,” Thomaidis said. ”I imagine that next time we play them it will be quite different in terms of the actions that they run, and the number of minutes each player gets and things like that. We’ll see.”

The 46-year-old Thomaidis was a longtime assistant to Allison McNeill before McNeill retired in 2013. She’s also a five-time Canada West coach of the year and two-time U Sports national coach of the year with the University of Saskatchewan.

Thomaidis’s professional playing career was cut short by a chondral fracture of the patella and femur while playing in Greece.

“Unfortunate and unlucky, but at the same time super lucky,” she said. ”Had that not happened, I wouldn’t be in coaching.”

Canada men’s basketball to play China in B.C. next month

RELATED: Toronto guard to challenge for starting role

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Scooters lined up for an educational event in Stuart Park on Wednesday, June 16. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Free e-scooter safety training in Kelowna

Shared e-scooter operators collaborate to educate riders

The suspect reportedly assaulted a security guard and robbed him. The incident happened at a Kelowna hotel. (Contributed)
Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (Valley First/Contributed).
Have your say on which Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen charities get donation

Valley First seeks public help to distribute $250,000 to local charities via social media campaign

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon Courthouse. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Sentencing delayed in North Okanagan child pornography case

Man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography will have new sentence date fixed next week

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Most Read