Canadian basketball phenom Laeticia Amihere commits to South Carolina

Canada's Laeticia Amihere (FIBA/Canada Basketball)

Canadian basketball phenom Laeticia Amihere has announced that she will be heading to the University of South Carolina.

The six-foot-three forward from Milton, Ont., will join a Gamecocks program led by head coach Dawn Staley, a six-time WNBA all-star during her playing days and also the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. With Staley at the helm, South Carolina won its first-ever NCAA national championship in 2017.

Prior to choosing Staley and the Gamecocks, the 17-year-old had whittled her choices down to South Carolina, Louisville and Kentucky.

Amihere is a five-star recruit, ranked 10th overall among the class of 2019, according to ESPN. She became a viral sensation in May 2017 when footage of her going coast-to-coast and throwing down a huge dunk put her on notice across the recruiting world.

As that video shows, Amihere is an explosive athlete with tremendous length and strength. Blessed with these natural gifts, she is among Canada’s most exciting basketball prospects – man or woman – and has already displayed those talents on the national stage.

For most Canadian hoops heads, the summer of 2017 is best remembered as R.J. Barrett’s big coming-out party when he led Canada to a FIBA under-19 world cup gold medal. However, Canada’s success on the hardwood didn’t stop there. Canada’s under-19 women defeated Japan to win bronze in the women’s world championship, securing the team’s highest finish ever at a FIBA U19 World Cup tournament.

At the time, Amihere hadn’t even celebrated her 16th birthday yet. But that didn’t stop her from having a breakout tournament. She led Canada in scoring, averaging 11.7 points through the seven games they played, including a team-high 13 to clinch the bronze medal — a stunning achievement considering she was competing against girls two and three years her senior in the event.

“I think she has an ability to impact plays with her athleticism, but just her compete level to defend and rebound,” said Carly Clarke, the head coach of that 2017 under-19 squad Amihere starred on. “I would say that she has demonstrated the ability to step up in big moments. When I had her on the U19 national team she made some pretty big plays.

“Our quarterfinal game against China at moments when we really needed a bucket or needed a stop and then similar would be in our bronze-medal game against Japan. Overall, she’s not afraid of being under the lights and having some pressure on her in big moments.”

Clarke, who is currently the head coach of Ryerson’s women’s basketball team and an assistant on Canada’s senior women’s team, says she sees shades of one of the greatest players in women’s basketball history in Amihere.

“If you look at some of the best players in the world that might have similar builds to her, Candace Parker certainly comes to mind,” Clarke said. “Candace dunked in a game in college and has dunked in WNBA games and affects the game in a lot of different ways, so that’s the first one that comes to mind.”

Being compared to a two-time WNBA MVP when you’re only 17 years old? High praise, but well-earned because — if Canada Basketball is to be believed — she is The Next One.

“She’s gonna be likely a role model that others are gonna compare themselves to as she continues to grow her game because the sky’s the limit when it comes to somebody who is that driven, committed and that much of a student of the game,” Denise Dignard, Canada Basketball’s director of women’s high performance said.

The raw potential is there for Amihere to succeed at South Carolina, but it won’t be easy. Coming off a knee injury she suffered in Oct. 2017, Amihere has missed nearly all of 2018 and will need to use 2019 to get back to where she used to be as she prepares to head to campus next fall.

For her, it should be no problem, though.

“Like I said earlier, she rises to big challenges,” Clarke said. “She’s gonna be pushed and challenged by both her coaches and her teammates every single day and that’s only going to make her better.”

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