While the attention of most Canadian basketball fans was likely on the Toronto Raptors over the weekend, with the defending NBA champions holding their annual media day and training camp beginning in Quebec City, another of Canada’s hoop gems was in action getting results.
Canada’s women’s national team won a silver medal at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in Puerto Rico — beating Brazil 66-58 on Saturday to reach the gold-medal game — where they ultimately came up short against the United States on Sunday 67-46.
Lopsided loss to the world No. 1 United States aside, it was a quality showing for the Canadians in Puerto Rico, particularly because this wasn’t a squad at full strength.
Neither standout Canucks Kia Nurse nor Natalie Achonwa were on the team, and yet Canada still managed to walk away with a medal.
More encouraging yet is the fact that members of Canada’s future were able to get some important reps with the senior squad, in particular, Michigan State guard Shay Colley and high schooler Aaliyah Edwards.
Colley has been a member of the senior team since 2017 and looks to be Canada’s top point guard prospect. She was instrumental in getting Canada to the gold-medal game, pouring in 23 points Saturday against Brazil, including nine in the fourth quarter alone.
Edwards currently attends Crestwood Prep and is considered to be a five-star forward prospect for the class of 2020, according to ESPN (No. 26 overall). She made her senior team debut earlier this year in exhibition contests, but the AmeriCup was her first taste at a serious international competition.
The six-foot-three wing appeared to hold her own in Puerto Rico as she averaged 6.0 points per game on 63.6 per cent shooting in 14.6 minutes played across Canada’s six games.
Still only 17, Edwards appears to have a very bright future ahead of her for Team Canada.
Outside of the loss to the States, the only real downer for Canada at the AmeriCup was sight of seeing Kayla Alexander go down with an apparent leg injury midway through the fourth quarter of Canada’s semifinal contest with Brazil.
The 27-year-old had been Canada’s best player in Puerto Rico, leading Canada in both scoring (15.6) and rebounding (a tournament-best 10.2), but unfortunately had to sit out the gold-medal game and watch as Tina Charles, her likely defensive matchup, dominate the Canadians on the inside.
Canada will be hoping Alexander will be right to go by November because Edmonton will be hosting Team Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico in Edmonton as part of the FIBA women’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament for the Americas.
Taking place from Nov. 14-17 at the Edmonton EXPO Centre, Canada will need to finish among the top two teams in thr tournament to qualify for one of four FIBA women’s Olympic qualifying tournaments next year.
Should Canada make it to one of these WOQTs, the team would then need to be one of the top-three finishers in order to reach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic basketball tournament, with the exception being if Canada finds itself in a tournament with one of Japan or the United States, countries that get an automatic berth to the Games as the host nation and 2018 World Cup winner, respectively.