The days of Canada’s men’s and women’s basketball teams not being in contention for the Olympics are past. The men punched their ticket to this summer’s Olympics at the FIBA World Cup last summer for the first time since 2000. Now it’s the women’s turn.
The women’s team plays in a last-chance qualifier in Sopron, Hungary February 8-11. They will play three games against Hungary, Spain and Japan. To qualify for the Olympics, the women must finish among the top three in the group of four. Then they can start booking their flights to the Olympics in France.
The group is competitive. Spain is ranked fourth in the world; Japan is ninth and is the reigning Olympic Silver medalist. Hungary is ranked 19th. Canada currently sits fifth in the FIBA world rankings. All the games will be on Sportsnet.
The games will be on Sportsnet on their main TV channels and available on Sportsnet NOW, as well it is available on Courtside 1891 The games take place starting on Canada vs Hungary at 1 pm Eastern on Thursday on Sportsnet. On February 8th, Canada plays Spain at 9:30 am Eastern on Friday on Sportsnet. Finally on February 9th, Canada takes on Japan at 9 am Eastern on Sunday, February 11th on Sportsnet.
To get this far, Canada had to win the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic tournament last November.
Canada has been a force in international women’s basketball for over a decade. The Canadian women have made it to every Olympics since 2012, and in September 2022, they came fourth at the FIBA Women’s World Cup. The roster in the Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to that team, headlined by Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa. The only major absence from the Canadian roster in Hungary will be Aaliyah Edwards who is finishing up her senior year at the famed women’s basketball program at the University of Connecticut (UCONN).
The roster is comprised of : Natalie Achonwa (Minnesota Lynx-WNBA), Bridget Carleton (Minnesota Lynx-WNBA), Laeticia Amihere (Atlanta Dream-WNBA), Kayla Alexander (Tango Bourges- France), Syla Swords (Luhi High School), Emily Potter (Perth Lynx Australia), Nirra Fields (İzmit Belediyespor – Turkey), Shay Colley (Flammes Carolo- France), Sami Hill (Araski AES – Spain), Aislin Koenig (Flammes Carolo – France), Shaina Pellington (Sanga Milano- Italy) and according to sources, Yvonne Ejim (sister of Melvin Ejim) (Gonzaga-NCAA).
Some players to watch:
Back in 2022, when Canada finished fourth, Bridget Carleton was phenomenal and was named to the all-tournament first team, averaging 12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 35 percent shooting from 3. She is a forward who can create her own shot, is smart coming off screens and is a solid defender with a 6-foot-1 frame. Meanwhile, the veteran forward Natalie Achonwa will be playing as a new mother, after giving birth to her son Maverick in 2023; she will be on the court, playing for him and her country. Laeticia Amihere is an athletic forward who can dunk and mix it up inside; she has yet to play a game in the WNBA though she was drafted eighth overall in 2023. Lastly, the player who might be the next face of Canada basketball is the babyface assassin Syla Swords, an 18-year-old highschooler who is a five-star recruit to the University of Michigan. Swords showed out at last year’s U-19 FIBA Women’s World Cup, dropping 26 in a win over France to win the Bronze Medal. She is a sharpshooter but can finish in the lane, as she possesses great touch and good basketball IQ. It’s unclear how much time she will get but is someone to keep an eye on for the years to come.
If Canada does qualify for the Olympics, it would be the first time in the program’s history that they have qualified for four consecutive Olympics. It would also be the first time that the Canadian men’s and women’s basketball teams had qualified for the Olympics at the same time since 2000.