Almost four months after the Canadian women’s basketball team was kicked out of the Tokyo Olympics in the first round; Laeticia Amihere can look back and see the positives of playing on the biggest stage of her career.
The high-flying 20-year-old from Milton; Ontario is one of the main reasons the South Carolina Gamecocks have had a 7-0 start to the season; and she credits the experience gained playing international basketball on last summer.
“I’ve been working a lot on my defense; just running and jumping and ‘being disruptive;’ as we call it in Canada Basketball; just trying to get my hand on every touch that I can;” he said Wednesday; from Columbia. SOUTH CAROLINA
The eight-foot junior forward leads a strong group of young Canadians who play key roles on their NCAA teams this season.
The Canadian women’s team was touted as a potential medal threat in Tokyo before the COVID-19 pandemic practically shut down the program for nearly 18 months.
Canada went 1-2 in the preliminary round and did not advance. Head coach Lisa Thomaidis and Canada Basketball agreed to part ways when Thomaidis’s contract expired after Tokyo.
Learning through experience with the national team.
Amihere; who first rose to fame by immersing herself in a high school game when she was just 15 years old; made her Olympic debut in Tokyo. His best game was a 10-point; six-rebound performance in a 10-point loss to Spain.
“I think I did well;” Amihere said on his Olympic debut. “Obviously; it was a new stage for me. It was the first time for me to really get those minutes; and go out there and have an impact like I did there.”
While the results were heartbreaking for Canadian women; Amihere said she learned a lot from the more than two months she spent with the national team; first in a “bubble” in Tampa; Florida; then at the AmeriCup tournament in Puerto Rico; where he averaged 13 points per game; the best for the team; and finally Japan.
“It was a great experience. Not just Tokyo; but before that; we were in a bubble together for almost two and a half months;” he said. “All that experience gave me like a lifestyle abroad; being with the players; being in a bubble; being in a foreign country; practicing every day; it was really just basketball.
“It is a different experience from the university; where you have the school and the activities. But [with the national team]You really focused on basketball and getting better every day. “
This season; Amihere is averaging 7.7 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting. She scored 18 points against Oregon in the Battle 4 Atlantic tournament; shooting the best 6 of 19 shots from the field; the best of her career.
She is second on the team with 10 steals; and with her speed; length and excellent passing ability; coach Dawn Staley has spoken about the Canadian’s role this season.
“We absolutely need her;” Staley told reporters. “She is not afraid. I would rather have someone out there who is not afraid. She is not afraid of making mistakes.”
Keeping up the momentum; high hopes for the future with the Canadian team
Arizona guard Shaina Pellington; who also played for Canada in Tokyo; has kept the momentum going after helping the Wildcats reach the NCAA final last season; they lost to Stanford by one point.
The Pickering; Ontario native averages 6.1 points per game and has eight steals.
Playing together on youth national teams; Amihere said the NCAA women share a strong bond.
None of the NCAA players will be available to play for Canada in their next international event; qualification for the FIBA World Cup in February. But Amihere will cheer them on from afar.
“I have confidence in the team and in the new coaching staff that we are going to have to compete in February;” he said. “I am really confident that we will qualify (for the World Cup; September 22-October 1; 2022 in Sydney; Australia) and have a fresh start for Canada Basketball.”
Here are some other Canadian women to watch out for this NCAA season:
Aaliyah Edwards; University of Connecticut; Merissah Russell; Louisville; Shayeann Day-Wilson; Duke; Latasha Lattimore; Texas; Taya Hanson and Maggie Besselink; State of Arizona; Sarah Te-Biasu; Virginia Commonwealth University; Yvonne Ejim; Gonzaga; Brynn Masikewich; UCLA; Phillipina Kyei; Oregon; Tara Wallack; Washington State.
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