Canadians made history two years ago in the 2021 March Madness tournament when one Canadian woman was represented on each of the Final Four teams. They followed it up last year when Laeticia Amihere’s South Carolina Gamecocks prevailed over Aaliyah Edwards’ Connecticut Huskies in the championship game. Now, Edwards is seeking revenge on Amihere and hoping to lead UConn to their first title since 2016.
“For her to stop rubbing it in my face,” Edwards told Sportsnet back in December when asked about her desire to get back at Amihere. “Yes, definitely. Because whenever we connect with the national team, she always needs to bring it up.”
Fortunately for Edwards, she has been as dominant as any woman in college basketball this season, leading the Huskies to a 29-5 record and Big East Championship as their primary option. She headlines a stacked group of 26 Canadian women in the March Madness tournament who are so young and talented that it could be a preview of what’s to come for the Canadian senior women’s national team at the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games.
Here are six Canadian women to watch at 2023 March Madness:
F Aaliyah Edwards, University of Connecticut (No. 2 seed, Seattle 3)
Edwards has been one of the most dominant players in college basketball this season, posting an absurd stat line of 16.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.2 STOCKS on 57.3 per cent shooting. In her Junior season at UConn, Edwards led the Huskies to a 29-5 record and the Big East Championship, where she was named tournament MVP after dropping double-doubles in each of the final three games. While Edwards is still not a threat to shoot from the outside, the 6-foot-3 forward has developed a nice mid-range game to go along with her dominant screen-and-roll and post-up skill set. Plus, she is a versatile defender who can play the four or the five, using her speed to chase shooters around the perimeter or her strength to hold stronger centres in check.
Edwards is not going to win the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year award this season, but she has already proven to be a surefire WNBA Draft pick in 2024. And before that, she hopes to bring UConn back to glory this March.
F Laeticia Amihere, South Carolina (No. 1 seed, Greenville 1)
Amihere has had a bit of an up-and-down season relative to expectations. But playing alongside 2022 Player of the Year Aaliyah Boston — who plays a similar position as her in the post and as a screen-setter — comes with its own challenges. The senior forward has been asked to fit in coming primarily off the bench for the undefeated 32-0 Gamecocks, where she has averaged 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.9 STOCKS per game on 49.4 per cent shooting. However, Amihere is as versatile as they come, oscillating between playing in the post to the screen-and-roll to even playing as a point guard at times, with head coach Dawn Staley recently calling Amihere “the most versatile player I’ve ever coached. She can play 1-through-5. She welcomes every role she is given.” Amihere was the difference in the SEC championship tournament, which the Gamecocks won, dropping 16 and 5 in the semifinal and 17/6/7 in the final.
This summer, Amihere is likely to become the first Canadian drafted into the WNBA since Bridget Carleton back in 2019. But before that, Amihere is hoping to help South Carolina repeat as national champions, becoming the first Canadian to do so since Kia Nurse in 2015–16.
G Shayeann Day-Wilson, Duke (No. 3 seed, Seattle 4)
Day-Wilson has played a big part in the turnaround at Duke University, where the women’s program went from not even making it to the March Madness tournament last season to having a 25-6 record and finishing runners-up in ACC Tournament play. The sophomore is the starting point guard and a big part of the team’s defensive identity, using her speed to chasing opponents around screens while becoming more of a facilitator on offence as she learns from head coach Kara Lawson, averaging 8.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 35/30/69 shooting splits. At 5-foot-6, the Toronto native plays an exciting brand of basketball, as she is liable to heat up from the three-point line or cross her defender up at any time. Day-Wilson hopes to lead a young Blue Devils team that has already surpassed expectations deep into March.
G/F Cassandre Prosper, Notre Dame (No. 3 seed, Greenville 1)
Prosper only arrived at Notre Dame in late December as an early enrollee, but the 17-year-old freshman out of Quebec is one of Canada’s best young prospects and is already making a big impact for the Fighting Irish. Prosper is averaging 4.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 STOCKS per game as she plays a similar role to her brother, Olivier-Maxence, tasked with guarding all five positions and chipping in where she can on the offensive end. Prosper still comes off the bench for Notre Dame but has quickly garnered her team’s trust as she already averages 20.7 minutes per game, and it won’t be long before she plays a central role for Notre Dame, especially as her shot comes along. For now, however, Prosper is one of the best young players in college basketball and she will get an opportunity to shine on the sport’s biggest stage.
F Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga (No. 9 seed, Seattle 4)
Ejim has been one of the best Canadian basketball success stories over the past few years, going from an under the radar prospect who played just 6.5 minutes per game as a freshman to playing 27.6 in her Junior season with the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Ejim averaged 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.3 STOCKS per game on 53/36/81 per cent shooting splits this season, showcasing her all-around game and elite ability to rebound on both sides of the floor. Ejim comes from a basketball family and has played with Team Alberta when growing up and on Team Canada youth teams, and she will look to lead Gonzaga to a deep run with her solid all-around play.
G Merissah Russell, Louisville (No. 5 seed, Seattle 4)
Russell is having by far the best season of her career coming off an impressive campaign with Canada’s under-23 team at GLOBL JAM, averaging 4.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.0 STOCKS per game on 44/37/81 per cent shooting for the Louisville Cardinals. Russell is a sharpshooter off the bench who plays beyond her age as a Junior, constantly making the right read and defending within a team concept as well as anyone on the Cardinals. Russell is still coming off the bench, but the tournament will be an opportunity for her to showcase her two-way play in front of a national audience.
Other Canadians on tournament rosters:
F Kiandra Browne (Montreal), Indiana
F Jessica Clarke (North Vancouver, B.C.), Washington St
G Shantavia Dawkins (Brampton, Ont.), Iowa St
G Micah Dennis (Toronto), East Carolina
G Lashae Dwyer (Toronto), Miami
F Ella Farrelly (Oakville, Ont.), Monmouth
F Jada Grannum (Mississauga, Ont.), Middle Tennessee
G Lemyah Hylton (London, Ont.), Arizona
F Xianna Josephs (Brampton, Ont.), East Carolina
G Justina King (Scarborough, Ont.), Toledo
G Emma Koabel (Port Colborne, Ont.), Duke
F Latasha Lattimore (Toronto), Miami
F Brynn Masikewich (Calgary), UCLA
F Brianna McLeod (Brampton, Ont.), Colorado
G Shaina Pellington (Pickering, Ont.), Arizona
F Cheyenne Rowe (Ajax, Ont.), James Madison
G Tara Wallack (South Surrey, B.C.), Washington St
G Aerial Wilson (Dundas, Ont.), South Florida
F Callie Wright (Markham, Ont.), Holy Cross
C Izzi Zingaro (Bolton, Ont.), Iowa St