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Kitchener’s Jamal Murray joining 'best Canadian team ever' at Paris Olympics

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Kitchener, Ont. native Jamal Murray is taking his shot at getting a gold medal.

The point guard confirmed his commitment to play for the Canadian men’s basketball team at the 2024 Olympic Games, after the Denver Nuggets’ Game 7 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA’s Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Murray is expected to join fellow Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, R.J. Barrett, Kelly Olynyk, Luguentz Dort, Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell and Andrew Wiggins.

“This is the best Canadian team ever put together in the history of this country,” TSN NBA analyst Wesley Cheng told CTV News. “I don’t want to throw it out there and say [a] medal is the expectation, but this team definitely has a shot at the podium.”

This will mark the Canadian men’s basketball team’s first trip to the Olympic Games in 24 years, when Steve Nash led them to a 5-2 record and 7th place finish.

Excitement is also growing for the sport, especially in Waterloo Region.

Growing the game

In Kitchener, the KW Titans say they’re seeing more fan interest in the game.

“I am actually blown away at how committed some people are to the [Titans],” said team owner David Schooley.

As of Wednesday, the Titans sit two wins away from clinching a Basketball Super League Championship over the London Lightning.

Ticket sales, Schooley added, have gone up by 60 per cent since the start of the season.

Youth basketball

The Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Basketball Association (KW YBA) said it’s also seen a steady increase in participation and the quality of play for boys and girls, thanks in large part to the Canadian star power in both the men’s and women’s game.

“The success of the Jamal Murrays, Andrew Wiggins, Dillon Brooks, Lu Dort [and] Aaliyah Edwards legitimize for the kids the potential to take this sport seriously,” KW YBA president John Illingworth told CTV News.

It’s not just the excitement around the game, he said, but the affordability that opens more doors for kids to play.

“Some of our more traditional sports are less accessible,” Illingworth explained. “Basketball, it doesn’t cost a lot for kids to play even at a high level compared to hockey or football.”

Ready for the Olympics

The 2024 Olympics in Paris, France kicks off July 26.

This will be the Canadian men’s basketball team’s 10th appearance at the games. Canada, ranked seventh, will play in Group A alongside Australia, and the winners of upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournaments held in early July.

“The fact that they’re going to be a competitive team during this run in the Olympics, that should definitely infatuate and enamor a lot of kids [who] look to play basketball,” Cheng said.

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