After historic freshman season, Day-Wilson is ready for big summer with Team Canada

Shy Day-Wilson represented Canada's U19 Junior Women’s National Team. (Canada Basketball)

Shy Day-Wilson doesn’t just have next, she has next and now, and whatever else she decides to set her mind to. The 5-foot-6 Canadian point guard who honed her game at the Falstaff Community Centre made more than a splash in her freshman season in the NCAA. After leading Duke in points, assists, field goals made, free throws made and attempted and minutes this season, Day-Wilson was awarded the ACC Freshman of the Year to cap off her incredible season with the Blue Devils.

Day-Wilson arrived at Duke following a phenomenal showing with the U19 Junior Women’s National Team, where she averaged 18.1 points (second-best in the tournament), 5.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in seven games. It was a whirlwind start to her NCAA career, following a lost year of high school ball because of the pandemic, and then a late switch from Syracuse University to Duke. It didn’t matter, nor did it phase Day-Wilson, who hit the ground running with the Blue Devils from the jump.

“It was just a surprise for me, and it was also like, not really a surprise, almost because I had this goal that I wanted to win freshman of the year,” she said. “I wanted to obviously, you know, go to the tournament, but I accomplished one of my goals and making the [NCAA] tournament is definitely still on my list. But I accomplished basically everything I wanted to this far so I’m just really proud of myself.”

Day-Wilson finished the season averaging a team-best 12.7 points and 3.7 assists, to go along with 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, numbers that almost certainly would have been higher had she started the entire season. Day-Wilson started the final 17 games of the season after her stellar play made it all but impossible to keep her out of the starting five. 

This has become a recurring trend in Day-Wilson’s young basketball history. After starting to play basketball at the Falstaff Community Centre, Day-Wilson quickly improved to where she was playing with the boys teams at age eight. Despite being undersized and often the youngest player on the court, Day-Wilson continued to excel, her play frustrating parents who were upset that a girl was outplaying and earning more minutes than their sons.

Patrick Shaw works at Falstaff and is Day-Wilson’s mentor, as well as one of her biggest supporters. He recognized not only the talent, but also the relentless drive and competitive desire in Day-Wilson from the beginning. After struggling to find Day-Wilson appropriate competition to challenge her game, Shaw created a girl’s AAU program here in Toronto and before long Day-Wilson and her teammates were travelling to the U.S. where they were playing against the best competition, and perhaps most important, playing in front of the right people.

Despite the success she was having on-court, Day-Wilson was still shocked when she received her first scholarship offer in the seventh grade. It was then that she realized she had a shot to make basketball be more than just the sport she loved.

“I was looking at and I didn’t know anything about, like, going to school for basketball, nothing,” she said. “So I got my first offers and I was doing my research and it was like, ‘Oh, damn, this is actually big time’, you know?”

Day-Wilson was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure she’d get to reach the highest level of basketball possible. She hasn’t slowed down since.

Though this past summer was Day-Wilson’s first time donning the red and white to play for Canada at the U19s, up next will be the GLOBL JAM International Showcase and Tournament held in Toronto by Canada Basketball this July.

The event will see the world’s best young talent coming together to face off for a week, beginning on July 5 in Toronto. 

You could say Day-Wilson is looking forward to it.

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It’s crazy to me ‘cause I hadn’t played back home in, like, two or three years.  Everyone’s just seen me play on TV and stuff like that. Like, I mean, they could still come to Duke [to see me play], but I’m going to be playing back home. [There’s] no better feeling like playing in front of your people. Like, that sounds really good. And I mean, the competition is gonna definitely be good. So, I mean, it’s just a good look all around.”

Day-Wilson enjoyed her time representing Canada in Hungary with the U19s last August. 

“Hungary was really fun,” she said. “I met some good friends, and got to know some people that I talk to now. It’s just a good experience.”

Though her own basketball career is just getting started, Day-Wilson has appreciated how former and current Canadian basketball players want to reach out to ensure that today’s young talent make it even further than they did. She sees GLOBL Jam as another step that Canada Basketball is taking to help set up the future generations for success as well.

“It’s really good, for instance, if you want to go to the international level and [play] overseas, it’s a really good opportunity [to be seen],” she said. “And I think having it in Canada is just like a really, really good opportunity for players [in Canada] who don’t have to travel [to have their games be seen].”

Day-Wilson recently went viral on social media after video clips of her playing one-on-one with Drake at the basketball court in his house in Toronto were posted to Instagram. Most 18-year-olds would be beside themselves with this opportunity. Day-Wilson isn’t like most 18-year-olds, though. Cool as ever, she explained how the rapper reached out to invite her to play on his court when she returned to Toronto to train following her freshman year. Day-Wilson appreciates the attention and respect that Drake gives to the women’s game, as well as his support for Canadian hoopers.

Though she didn’t get rattled by Drake’s celebrity status on the court where it was business as usual, Day-Wilson came away most impressed with the court itself.

“He’s like, ‘I have room at my house [to play one-on-one] as though it’s like a room outside and instead he has his own frigging court,” she said laughing.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, to be honest, I was more, like, starstruck from being outside of the house, you know what I mean?” she continued.

Though Day-Wilson may be undersized on the court, her giant personality shines at all times. An easy-going conversationalist, Day-Wilson’s jokes are as slick as her game is special. She knows that some people watching her play may focus on her intensity or competitiveness and may confuse those elements of her game with her personality and she wants to set them straight.

“You know, people look at me, like obviously on the court, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s cocky or whatever,” Day-Wilson said. “It’s just like, no, I’m in that mode [while competing]. Off the court, I love people, you know?”

To watch Day-Wilson’s game is to love her, too.

This story was first published by Canada Basketball.

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