Kevin Pangos And The 2011 World Select Team
Portland, Ore. • April 5, 2011
On April 4, Kevin Pangos, a 6-1 guard from Dr. Dennison High School in Ontario, Canada, and the 2011 World Select Team began practicing together in Portland, Ore. The team has less than one week before they face off against the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9 at the Rose Garden.
On the 11-man, international roster are players from eight different countries, and not everyone speaks English. In fact, those able to watch practice likely have noticed interpreters on the sideline helping to relay coach Roy Rana’s (Canada) instructions. It’s a familiar challenge for the World Team, which has previously taken on the USA 13 times, notching just three wins in the history of the event.
Before the U.S. team arrives and begins practicing on April 7, USABasketball.com sat down with Pangos, who is a U16 and U17 bronze medalist who also took a turn with the Canadian Senior National Team in 2009, to get his perspective.
With three Canadians on the World Select Team, including yourself, head coach Roy Rana and Kyle Wiltjer, do you feel like you already have a feel for what’s expected of you?
For sure. I’ve been with Roy the past two summers. I know his style of coaching. I know what he expects out of his players. That’s helpful because I can let the rest of the team know, so we start right off the bat with a head’s up about what he expects. We do have a good core. To start off practices, Kyle (Wiltjer) and I demonstrated drills, since there was a language barrier, and then the rest of the team followed our lead. That made things a lot easier.
What is it like having players from all over the world, who don’t all speak the same language, on one team?
It’s a bit frustrating. Not because they don’t understand, but because you want to communicate things and don’t know how. It’s not too bad, though, because everyone understands that we don’t all speak the same language, and we still try to communicate.
Monday evening you watched the national championship game together, does it help to spend time together off the court?
For sure that helps. We have little jokes and guys were talking and even singing. That’s a different way to bond. And watching the NCAA finals, we can all relate because we all watch basketball and are competitive that way. The more we spend time together this week, the better off we will be.
You had the chance to travel to Italy with the Canadian Senior National Team in the summer of 2009 – at the age of 17. What was that experience like?
We played again Italy, New Zealand and a couple of other countries. It was an unbelievable experience. I actually wasn’t planning on traveling. I was planning on just going to the training camp in Toronto. They ended up with a spot, and they brought me along. Right off the bat the guys included me. They gave me a Hello Kitty backpack I had to carry around everywhere. I became a fan favorite because people saw the backpack. Aside from all the jokes, they were great because they helped me with life skills. They’ve been through everything I want to go through.
Also in 2009 you played with the Canada at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, where you finished with the bronze medal and qualified for the inaugural 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, where you again took home bronze. Can you tell me about your experience at the FIBA U17 World Championship?
It was unbelievable. In Canada, we are not really known as a powerhouse country, but we are trying to build it up that way, and we knew we had potential to do great things. We wanted to medal. That was our goal – to make it to the semifinals because anything can happen from there. We played the U.S. in the semis, gave them a good battle and unfortunately lost in the end. But it was great experience bringing bronze back to our country. Everyone recognized what we did, and that was a building point for the future of Canadian basketball, even our senior team, which is getting a lot better as well.
Several of the USA’s Nike Hoop Summit players also suited up for USA Basketball at the FIBA U17 World Championship, did you get to know any of them?
I’m familiar with them. They know who I am, and I know who they are, but we were competing all the time and didn’t have time to get know each other that well – it’s all business in tournaments like that. I’ve talked with a few of them, and maybe this week I’ll get a chance to talk with a few of them again.
Any emotions left over for you from that loss to the USA in the semifinals?
That game is in the books, but every time I play again the USA I want to do as well as I can. I haven’t had the chance to beat the USA, I’m 0-2 so far, and not many countries can say they have. Definitely, every time I play the USA I want to challenge them and do the best I can, but there aren’t any grudges or anything. I just want to play my best.
What made Gonzaga a good fit for you?
Gonzaga was one of the first schools that contacted me, and I’ve built a great relationship with a lot of the coaches. They have everything I want in a program. The only issue is that it’s far from home, but I’m willing to give that up for the right fit. It’s on the West Coast, but me and my family talked about that and every factor involved, we couldn’t think of anything bad. We were willing to accept the distance for the atmosphere they have, the coaching style, the playing style and the way team was really familiar oriented. Everything about them was great. They have a guy like John Stockton around the program, and now that I’m going there, people compare me to him. I hope to work with him, too.
Is there someone you like to pattern your game after?
People say Steve Nash. Growing up, it was Steve Nash I looked up to – he’s Canadian, he’s a guard and he’s successful in the NBA. It makes a lot of sense. Then I started getting a lot of comparisons, and I loved the comparisons, but at the same time I disliked them because I wanted to build my own style of play. I’ve picked up things from a lot of different point guards.
It’s early in the week, but do you have any idea what the strengths of this team will be?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure yet. We have a bunch of different pieces on this team. We have big guys that are athletic, big guys that are skilled, wing players that can shoot, wing players that are athletic and guards that can pass and shoot. So, there are so many different pieces. It’s the best players in the world. I don’t know what our strengths and weaknesses will be yet, but we’ll figure it out. I think we’ll have a really strong team by the end of the week.
What are your thoughts on playing in the Rose Garden?
It’s a big arena and an NBA facility, so that’s obviously exciting. We’ll be playing in front of a lot of people, against the U.S. and playing alongside great players. That’s always a lot of fun. You don’t have the luxury of depth on every team you play for. All of those factors put together make this such an amazing opportunity.