Victor Lapeña’s first test as the new head coach of Canada’s senior women’s basketball program comes on the world stage, as Canada will compete at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament in Osaka, Japan.
Lapeña will take Canada to face off against Japan, the host country, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group C. In normal circumstances, the top three finishers in each group will solidify their spot at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney.
However, Belarus has decided they will not be participating in the qualifying tournament, meaning that Canada has automatically qualified for a spot in Sydney in September.
While the roster still heads to Osaka to compete and get their chemistry together before the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022, Lapeña will be tasked with a new challenge he has yet to face – being the head coach for a national women’s team.
Previously, Lapeña had served as an assistant coach for Spain’s women’s senior national team, leading them to an Olympic silver medal at Rio 2016, and a silver medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in his 14 years with the program.
For Lapeña, the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 gives him a chance to help Canada make history, as they aim to make a 12th appearance at the event and search for their highest-ever finish.
The highest Canada has ever finished at a World Cup is third place, at the 1979 FIBA World Championship for Women in Korea and the 1986 FIBA World Championship for Women in Moscow.
Failing to earn a quarter-final berth at the Tokyo Olympics, Canada posted a 1-2 record in group play, losing out on a tiebreaker between the other “lucky loser” teams. In each of the previous two Olympics in Rio and London, Canada’s women’s national team lost in the quarter-finals.
Here’s a look at what is coming up for Canada as they take on the first step of the FIBA Women’s Basketball 2022 World Cup.
With a 14-hour time change, Canada opens their tournament against host team Japan at 5 a.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 10, which is 7 p.m. local time.
Canada will then take on Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 12, which is 3 p.m. ET local time, facing off against the 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones in the matchup.
Since Belarus cancelled their participation, Canada will only play two games in the tournament.
As Sportsnet is now the exclusive home for FIBA events in Canada through the fall of 2025, both games will be available to watch on Sportsnet 360.
The FIBA Women’s Basketball 2022 World Cup qualifying is much different than the men’s tournament, as the men’s side qualifies in their continental regions such as the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Instead, the women’s side has qualifying tournaments much like the Olympics, taking place in Osaka, Japan, Washington, USA, and Belgrade, Serbia, and the games will be played from Feb. 10-13.
The tournament in Washington consists of Belgium, Puerto Rico, Russia, and home team USA facing off, while the tournament in Belgrade will see two different qualifying groups.
Belgrade will host Australia, Korea, Brazil and home team Serbia in Group A, with Group B consisting of Mali, China, France and Nigeria.
The FIBA Women’s Basketball 2022 World Cup serves as a qualifer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Canada’s Bridget Carleton (6), left, passes around South Korea’s Hyeyoon Bae. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
While Canada has a lot of talent playing overseas as well as in the NCAA and WNBA, players in those leagues have generally not been made available for in-season qualifying windows, with players like Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton missing out on the 2021 edition of the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup due to their WNBA commitments.
Though 19 players were named to the preliminary roster for Canada’s training camp, only 12 travelled to Osaka to compete.
The players named to the final roster include veterans Achonwa, Carleton, Kayla Alexander and Nirra Fields, who competed for Canada during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games as well as Alexander and Fields competing in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in June.
Michelle Plouffe returns to the team after missing competition in 2020 and 2021 due to FIBA 3×3 commitments for Team Canada.
Shay Colley, a key player for Canada in Tokyo, was also named to the initial roster along with Aislinn Konig and Jamie Scott, who were reserves for the Tokyo Games.
NCAA standouts Laeticia Amihere and Merissah Russell return for Canada, while UConn star Aaliyah Edwards will not be participating due to her NCAA commitments.
Cassandra Brown and Quinn Dornstauder round out the final members of the 12 women named to the final roster.
Lapeña signed on to coach alongside newly hired assistant coach Noelle Quinn, the current head coach of the Seattle Storm, along with fellow assistant coaches Steve Baur and Carly Clarke. The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament will also be a look at Lapeña’s coaching style, as he will lead many players on the current roster to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games where he hopes to make a statement as head coach.
Former head coach Lisa Thomaidis and the program parted ways two days before her contract expired, ending a nine-year run with the team in which she compiled an 83-44 record and earned gold at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship and the 2017 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup.
Since Belarus cancelled their participation, Canada’s senior woman will by default appear in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 no matter how they perform in Osaka, but the senior men are yet to confirm their spot and will play in the Feb. 24-27 qualifying window.