Canada’s Development Women’s National Team ready for a big summer

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Three players, Saicha Grant-Allen, Shay Colley & Jamie Weisner to get reps with Sr. Team

Written by Charles Vanegas

Once again led by Cape Breton University head coach Fabian McKenzie, the Canadian women’s development team is hoping to make noise at the upcoming FISU (Fédération internationale du sport universitaire) Games in Gwangju, South Korea from July 3 to 14.

Less than a year removed from winning the William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan —Canada’s first gold in the tournament since 1982 — the squad is feeling more confident than ever.

“They feel good about where Canada is in the world scene right now and where we’re trying to go,” says McKenzie. “They’re back feeling pretty confident, saying ‘hey, we’re here and we’re here to win and we’re here to [meet] a gold medal standard every time.”

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The roster is chock-full with NCAA talent, with the lone exception being Korissa Williams, a five-time CIS national champion with the University of Windsor. In her third year playing under McKenzie, she’ll be looked to for leadership as the lone returning member of the 2013 FISU Games in Kazan, Russia.

“Everyone has to enjoy themselves but it’s very important that we keep focused at FISUs. There’s a lot going on, there’s multiple teams, countries, everybody’s in the same village,” says Williams, recently named the 2014-15 CIS female athlete of the year. “We can’t get distracted. [We have to] come and do our job: perform. That’s what I’d like to lightly enforce.”

Williams lauds the high level experience of her teammates, with several having NCAA tournament experience, most notably 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Ruth Hamblin (6’6”, 3rd-year centre, Houston, B.C., Oregon State) and 6’4” Florida State centre Adut Bulguk, who led the Seminoles to the Elite Eight after leading the team in points (12.3 PPG) rebounds (9.5 RPG) and blocked shots (1.5) and being named to the All-ACC First Team.

“A lot of these girls have played in the NCAA… so they’ve played against the top WNBA prospects. It’s not just three or four [good] players on a team, it’s the whole team,” says Williams. “They all bring amazing basketball skills.”

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Prior to the Games, the team will travel to China for an exhibition tournament from June 22-28, before three of its members — Dayton centre Saicha Grant-Allen (6’5”, 2nd-year, Hamilton, Ont.), South Carolina guard Shay Colley (5’8”, Brampton, Ont., 2015 recruiting class) and Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner (5’10”, 3rd-year, Clarkston, Wash.) — return to Canada to train with the senior national team in preparation for the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

As the three attempt to earn the chance to play on home soil, they also hope the opportunity will serve as a prelude to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s great, to take a step up and get to play with the older players with more experience and a different level of play. It’s definitely exciting to be able to contribute on such a huge stage for Canada Basketball,” says Grant-Allen, who, like Bulguk, helped her team reach the Elite Eight this season.

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Weisner didn’t grow up dreaming of playing for Canada, but since getting her citizenship in Grade 11, her goal has been to play for the Olympic team. She says there definitely is an extra incentive to win when playing against the U.S.

“I’ve always played against people on [Team USA] and I know some people on that team,” says Weisner, a member of the All-Pac-12 team along with teammate Hamblin. “That’s Canada’s rival too, so everyone around me gets pumped up. It’s just a huge game. Always.”

Written by Charles Vanegas

Photos by Charles Vanegas

Edited by Drew Ebanks

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