McIntosh Playing For His Country
The first time MiKyle McIntosh was selected to play for Team Canada, the former Oregon men's basketball graduate transfer sent a photo of himself in his national team jersey to his mother.
When they traded text messages a short time later, the emotion was palpable. Her pride in his accomplishment was nearly overwhelming.
"I didn't realize the magnitude at the time," said McIntosh, who played for the Ducks in 2017-18, and has made 11 appearances playing for his country's national team. "It's a different experience. You can't really explain it."
McIntosh will be back in action for Team Canada this week in Puerto Rico. He was selected for the roster that will play two games against the U.S. Virgin Islands, Wednesday and Saturday, and two against Cuba, on Thursday and Sunday, with berths in the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 at stake.
The leading scorer for ESSM Le Portel Cote d'Opale in France's elite Pro A league, McIntosh will take a break from professional competition to play for his country this week. It's a welcome respite, in part because, due to COVID-19 interruptions, Le Portel has played just four games between December and February.
So McIntosh has the chance to take the court as many times in the next few days as he has in the last few months.
"I'm just lucky I finally get to play in some games," he said via videoconferencing Thursday, prior to his final game with Le Portel on Friday and his departure Saturday for Puerto Rico.
McIntosh hasn't felt particularly lucky since the pandemic began. Though he knows his problems pale in comparison to those people confronted with grave illness and death due to COVID-19, the pandemic has denied him precious opportunities during the prime of his career.
Last spring, McIntosh was planning to work out for NBA teams, with the goal of getting to the NBA Summer League and proving he deserved a roster spot for the 2020-21 season.
"It wasn't only one team; it was a couple," said McIntosh, who played in the summer league with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2018, and played in the G League the following season. "So I would have had a pretty good opportunity. And I'm pretty confident in my ability, so it was pretty disappointing."
McIntosh also had been invited to Team Canada's selection camp for the Summer Olympics. That invitation became moot when the pandemic caused the Tokyo Games to be pushed back a year, to later this summer.
While this week's AmeriCup 2022 qualifiers aren't technically an Olympic tryout, it's a chance to make an impression with Team Canada that could have implications down the road.
"You kind of don't want to go in with that intention," McIntosh said. "You want to go in and help at any cost. But it would be a blessing if I'm able to go in and play the way I think I can play, and get an opportunity with the Olympic team."
Playing in France has allowed McIntosh to do some traveling, including to England, the Netherlands and Belgium, where he played in 2019-20. He came down with COVID in October, but fortunately suffered only mild symptoms.
Le Portel began play in October but McIntosh, who is averaging 14.1 points per game and shooting 61.9 percent, missed only two games. The team played five games that month but has played just four since — two in December, one in January and once this month, on Friday. The French league hopes to resume a more regular schedule in March.
Practice and intra-squad scrimmages against teams from nearby cities have helped fill the gaps. McIntosh said Le Portel played three straight scrimmages at one point against the same club; although those were welcome breaks from the practice routine, even the scrimmages were no replacement for a normal game schedule.
"After the third game we all looked at each other like, we're sick of playing you guys," McIntosh said with a chuckle.
His goal remains to get back to North America, and earn a roster spot in the NBA. Even in limited opportunities this winter, McIntosh believes his game is progressing.
"France has one of the best European leagues, so that experience alone has been good," McIntosh said. "I just wish we could play more games and have that stability. I feel like I've been improving; when we're able to play, I feel like I get better."
This week in Puerto Rico, McIntosh will have a most welcome opportunity to get consistent game experience, and hopefully open some eyes in the process while playing for his home country.
"I just plan on going out there and doing the best I can to represent not only my country but my family too," he said. "It's a pretty big deal for them."