Pan Am Games serves as pivotal moment in Canadian women’s basketball history

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Miranda Ayim

Women fielding strong Pan Am team to spark interest

Written by Jose Colorado for On Point Basketball

It is the greatest Canadian national basketball team in nearly 30 years except no one really knows according to its members.

An unfamiliar scene unfolded on July 12 at the Air Canada Centre as media members flocked towards the practice facility to probe a roster largely responsible for one of the greatest uprisings in Canadian basketball history – no, not the men, the women.

The Canadian Women`s National Basketball team is in the midst of preparing itself for the Pan American Games that begins for its team on July 16 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Ryerson University.

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Kia Nurse

Although there has been a mixed reaction to the value of the games amongst the general public, there is no question amongst the players and coaches as to the importance they carry for them.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Head Coach Lisa Thomaidis, who also serves as the bench boss for the University of Saskatchewan women’s program.  “None of these women have played in a meaningful game in Canada in their careers. “

“To get this opportunity to showcase our team, our program, these wonderful women who have dedicated the better part of their lives for this program, (it’s) a great chance for them.”

The moment is amplified even further for many of the veterans on the squad who have stuck it out with the program through the tough times and have long-awaited the media attention attached to the current game.

“The men with all of their draft picks has kind of put a spotlight on us and we’re going to take that spotlight and show some people what we’re about on the women’s side as well,” said Kim Gaucher, who is one of four 30-plus year old members.

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Tamara Tatham

As highly publicized as the evolution of Canadian Basketball has been for the men, the women have actually been more successfully on the global stage.

The team competed in the 2012 Olympics – a feat not accomplished by the men in 15 years.

Perhaps more impressive is Canada’s fifth place at the World Championships last summer- the best result since 1986 when Canada medalled with a bronze.

The vast majority of the players responsible for that finish are present on the Pan Am roster as 10 of the 12 players will be competing in Toronto.

The team will also be bolstered even further by arguably Team Canada`s most highly profiled player, WNBA Rookie of the Year candidate, Natalie Achonwa.

The Guelph-native currently is on a four-game hiatus from her Indiana Fever where she currently averages 9.5 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game on 52.1 per cent field goal shooting.

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Head Coach Lisa Thomaidis

In total, the team boasts five former or current WNBA players with Kia Nurse and Nirra Fields largely considered the next two in line in the near future.

The women’s team is currently ranked No.10 in the world but have never won a gold medal in basketball at the Pan American games.

Written by Jose Colorado

Edited by Drew Ebanks

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