Canada’s senior men’s wheelchair basketball team, with Burlington’s Brandon Wagner, held its final training camp on Canadian soil at Brock University in St. Catharines prior to the London 2012 Paralympics and beat the U.S., 70-56, on Wednesday (July 18). The game was last of a three with the U.S. winning the first two of the Pre-Paralympic Test Series, 67-61 and 58-50.
This Paralympic Games will be Wagner’s first but the 29-year-old athlete is not unfamiliar with high level competition and his progress in the sport has been rapid. He began with the Burlington Vipers club team and made the Men’s U23 National Team in 2005.
He was accepted to play at the University of Illinois where he won the collegiate championships in 200 and the following year he was named Student-Athlete of the Year.
On Wednesday, Patrick Anderson led the way for Canada, scoring 37 points – the highest single-game point total for any player in the mini-tournament. Abdi Dini chipped in eight points, while Bo Hedges added six. USA’s Matt Scott scored 16 points in the losing effort, while Will Waller and Jason Nelms each added 10 points apiece.
Not only a possible London medal round preview, the Test Series served as a re-match of the 2008 Bejing Paralympics double-overtime thriller, in which Canada beat the USA in the semi-finals of the tournament. Canada went on to win silver in Beijing, while USA dropped to fifth place. The Beijing semi-final is widely regarded as one of the greatest matches in Canadian wheelchair basketball history.
Canada heads to London hungry for its third Paralympic gold and record-setting fourth-consecutive podium finish, following back-to-back gold in 2000 and 2004 and silver in 2008.
The Canadian roster is bolstered by the return of Anderson (Fergus, ON), widely considered to be the best player in the world, and 11 returning players, nine of whom have Paralympic experience. Seasoned veterans Dave Durepos (Fredericton, N.B.), Joey Johnson (Winnipeg) and Richard Peter (Vancouver) will tie a Canadian record by competing in their fifth Paralympic Games in London. In addition to Wagner, Chad Jassman (Calgary) and Tyler Miller (Kitchener, ON) make their debuts.
Team Canada will depart Aug. 14 for a final tune-up tournament in the Netherlands, with games Aug. 16-19 against Turkey, Germany, and the Netherlands. The team then travels to Sheffield, England for a small training camp Aug. 20-24, before moving into the London Paralympic Village.
Paralympic competition starts for the Sr. Men on Aug. 30 against Japan.