Tag Archives: WNBA

Kia Nurse hopes Raptors’ all-women broadcast could mirror WNBA, inspire next generation

If they see it, they can be it.

That’s the notion Canadian WNBA player and TSN commentator Kia Nurse hopes will inspire young women as the NBA’s first all-women broadcast team prepares to call the Raptors’ game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. 

Nurse hopes the influence of the first-of-its kind broadcast is similar to what she’s experienced recently as a player for the Women’s National Basketball Association, a league that’s had a huge impact with its social activism.

Some examples include their efforts to help the Democrats win a Senate seat in Georgia and the league’s #SayHerName campaign that created awareness about the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Maya Moore, one the WNBA’s most famous players, took a sabbatical from her basketball career to help free a wrongfully convicted man who is now her husband.

“I think people are starting to see how much of an impact we’re having. I mean, we helped flip the Senate,” Nurse told CBC Sports, referring to the work players did to encourage Georgians to vote specifically for Democrat Raphael Warnock and against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the former owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream who spoke out against Black Lives Matter.

The all-women’s broadcast could have the same kind of impact, said Nurse, the 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., who played last season with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and was recently traded to the Phoenix Mercury. 

“You have women who are doing an incredible job across different industries and different nations … coming together to show you guys what we’ve been working on, even though it hasn’t been in the spotlight.”

Nurse will work as a colour analyst for the game alongside play-by-play woman Meghan McPeak, who works for CBC Sports as well as in the booth for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.

TSN’s Kayla Grey will handle sideline reporting duties, while SportsCentre host Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert, an analyst for Raptors 905, will pair up for the in-game studio show.

Paving the way for the next generation

Nurse, who works as a TSN analyst during the WNBA off-season, says the broadcast will provide a template for young women to see what’s possible in a male-dominated sport and media industry.

“It wasn’t until I went to the U.S. one day and saw Maya Moore on television, I thought, ‘Oh, this would be cool to play in like a national championship and to play at UConn and whatnot,’ ” Nurse said.

CBC Sports contributor Meghan McPeak will call the March 24 Raptors game against the Nuggets as part of TSN’s all-female broadcast crew. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

McPeak echoed the sentiment on a recent episode of North Courts, a CBC Sports basketball show.

“That’s something that I never had growing up, so the fact that myself, Kia and Kayla can give that to little Black girls that look like us, that’s a fantastic feeling,” McPeak said. 

“Representation matters and little girls will be able to see us doing what we do and might think that they can do it as well.”

As the women call an important Raptors game against a top-tier team the night before the NBA trade deadline, Nurse hopes it will provide a platform to continue speaking out in the name of change — just as she did last summer in the WNBA.

WATCH | McPeak discusses historic broadcast on North Courts:

It’s March Madness time and with a record number of Canadians in the NCAA tournament, we’re dedicating this episode to the stars from north of the border, including Jevohn catching up with Gonzaga’s own sixth man of the year Andrew Nembhard. 17:17

“We took to the court with the understanding that no matter what anybody was going to say about us … some people were going to like what we had to say and some people weren’t,” Nurse said. 

“There’s a fine line between right and wrong. And we knew what was right.”

Providing inspiration for NCAA women’s athletes

To that end, after players in the NCAA women’s March Madness tournament used social media to expose how inferior their weight room setup was compared to the men’s teams, NCAA staff revamped the underwhelming setup with more equipment and machines.  

Other inequities, such as unequal COVID-19 testing and a lack of camera exposure, are also coming to light.

Nurse was part of four Final Four teams with the University of Connecticut, and though she says she never had an issue with weight rooms specifically, she also never played the tournament in a bubble due to a pandemic. She said she’s confused as to how the unequal set-up happened, but isn’t surprised that it did.

“I’m proud of the young women who are at the tournament who took to social media and stood up for themselves,” Nurse said.

“I’m proud of everybody who rallied around them and continued to make it loud enough that the NCAA listened right away. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Nurse hopes that she and her fellow WNBA players can provide inspiration for today’s college athletes to continue to find their own voices and feel empowered to speak out. 

“Because they know that if they’re working toward a league like the WNBA, then they’ll still have a voice when they get there.”

Meanwhile, Canadian national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis said television broadcasts like Wednesday’s should become the norm.

“All these steps along the way, they’re massive, right? They shouldn’t be, but they are,” she said. “The fact that we’re going to have an all-female broadcast crew just speaks to how far we’ve come.” 

A role model on the court and in the booth

Nurse spoke to CBC Sports as part of her partnership with Tangerine Bank, which committed $ 15,000 to support Kia Nurse Elite, her Nike-backed youth basketball program.

When she was younger, Nurse said scheduling didn’t allow her to play provincially, nationally, and with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in the U.S. all at once. With the Elite program, she’s aiming to change that while providing young Canadian female basketball players the support they need.

“Every door that I’ve had opened up in my life has been a direct result of being able to play basketball and to playing at a high level in the community that I was a part of growing up.” 

As a player, Nurse is used to serving as a role model for young Canadian basketball fans. On Wednesday, she’ll continue to influence the next generation — but this time, from the booth.

“Hopefully, if there are young women who are watching the game with their families, which I’m sure they are, seeing more people that look like them, maybe one of us resonates with them. And that’s all that matters in this case.”

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World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe, WNBA champion Sue Bird announce engagement

Two-time soccer World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe and 11-time WNBA All-Star Sue Bird are getting hitched.

The sports power couple announced their engagement with a photo posted to Bird’s Instagram account on Friday and a representative for Rapinoe confirmed the news to Reuters, as congratulations for the couple poured in across social media.

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Bird, 40, won her fourth WNBA title with the Storm earlier this month, bouncing back after missing all of the 2019 season due to a knee injury.

Rapinoe, who claimed the Ballon d’Or in 2019 after a career-defining year in which she won her second World Cup title, along with the Golden Boot and Golden Ball, was a regular fixture on the sidelines during the 2020 WNBA season, which took place entirely inside a quarantined setting in Bradenton, Florida, due to the new coronavirus.

The pair, who have been an item for more than three years, became the first openly LGBT couple to appear in the ESPN “Body Issue” in 2018, and have together been vocal advocates for a variety of political and social causes.

The announcement prompted well-wishes from numerous high-profile figures in sport and politics.

“Love will always win,” tweeted former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. “Congratulations, @S10Bird and @mPinoe!”

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Liberty’s Kia Nurse suffers injury in WNBA season opener

Breanna Stewart had 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals in her first WNBA game since helping Seattle win the 2018 championship, sending the Storm past the New York Liberty 87-71 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

The 2020 WNBA season, delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, will be played in a bubble at the IMG Academy.

Stewart missed all of last season after tearing her Achilles tendon while playing for her Russian club team in April 2019.

New York’s Kia Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., left the game early in the second quarter because of an ankle injury and did not return.

WATCH | Kia Nurse leaves season opener with injury:

New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse has to be helped off the floor after falling awkwardly during the 2nd quarter. 0:57

Jewell Loyd scored 14 points and Sue Bird — who also missed the 2019, because of a knee injury — added 11 points, hitting 3 of 5 from three-point range, and five assists for Seattle.

Sabrina Ionescu had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in her WNBA debut. Ionescu, the No. 1 pick in April’s draft , was 4-of-17 shooting, including 0 of 8 from three-point range, and committed four turnovers.

Layshia Clarendon led the Liberty with 20 points.

WATCH | Breanna Stewart leads Storm past Liberty:

In her first WNBA game since the 2018 Finals, Breanna Stewart scored a team-high 18 points as her Seattle Storm defeated New York Liberty 87-71. 0:32 

Neither team took the court for the national anthem and there was a 26 second moment of silence for Breonna Taylor. Taylor, an African American emergency medical technician, was shot dead in her apartment by Louisville Metro Police officers executing a no-knock search warrant on suspicion of drug possession. No drugs were found.

WATCH | WNBA players honour Breonna Taylor prior to tip-off:

Before the WNBA season tipped off it’s announced that their season is dedicated to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was shot and killed by police on March 13. 1:29

Loyd hit a three-pointer and then converted a three-point play before Stewart made a layup to make it 34-26 and the Storm led the rest of the way.

Jordin Canada scored six points during a 14-4 run to open the fourth quarter that gave the Storm their largest lead when she found Stewart for a three-pointer that capped the spurt and made it 80-61 with 4:44 to play.

Sparks run away from Mercury

Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 points and Seimone Augustus added 14 and the Los Angeles Sparks used a big third quarter to beat the Phoenix Mercury 99-75 on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

The 2020 WNBA season, delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, will be played in a bubble at the IMG Academy.

Oguwmike and Augustus combined to make all 14 of their shots. Augustus was playing her first game with Los Angeles after signing as a free agent from Minnesota in the off-season. Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker had 13 points apiece, and Brittney Sykes and Te’a Cooper each scored 10.

Diana Taurasi, who missed most of last season with back and hamstring injuries, led Phoenix with 16 points, Skylar Diggins-Smith added 14 points and six assists.

Los Angeles outscored the Mercury 30-8 in the third quarter to take an 80-54 lead into the fourth. Augustus and Gray had nine points apiece in the period. The Sparks made 12 of 18 from the field while limiting Phoenix to 27% (3 of 11) shooting.

The Mercury committed 27 turnovers – their most since 2016 – including nine in the third quarter.

David Stern added to Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class

Late NBA Commissioner David Stern has been added to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Commissioner of the NBA from 1984-2014, Stern was Instrumental in the founding of the WNBA and a longtime supporter of the women’s game. He died Jan. 1 at age 77 a few weeks after a brain hemorrhage.

The enshrinement of the Class of 2020 has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic until next year. The ceremony will be held on June 12, 2021.

Joining Stern in the class that was selected by the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors are Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson. The other members of the class are veteran player Debbie Brock and contributors Carol Callan, Sue Donohoe and Carol Stiff.

The 1980 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, which did not get to compete in the Ompics because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games, also will be honoured as the Trailblazers of the Game.

Stern previously was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Amid ‘2 pandemics,’ Minnesota Lynx lead WNBA players’ fight for social justice

With “two pandemics” ongoing, many professional athletes have chosen to sit out their respective sports’ return.

Perhaps no league has seen more dropouts than the WNBA, whether due to concerns over coronavirus or the desire to promote social justice, or both.

Canadian Kayla Alexander, a Minnesota Lynx forward, is not among those dropouts. But she says the decision wasn’t easy.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t torn,” Alexander said. “There’s a lot going on that is pushing me to consider really everything, but the league is trying to create a way that we can have a season that is safe and that we can use our platform for social justice.”

Players are set to receive 100 per cent of their salaries despite an abbreviated 22-game schedule, and those that sit out over health concerns are also entitled to that money.

Meanwhile, the league’s return-to-play agreement includes a commitment to working with players to promote their social reform initiatives. The WNBA is the only league that’s seen players cite social justice as the reason for their dropout thus far, including Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Washington’s Natasha Cloud.

Alexander, the 29-year-old Milton, Ont., native, says she’s using her platform as a WNBA player and Canadian national team member to promote social justice through education and donation, while also using her voice to share her experiences.

“The issues that are taking place in the world affect us. Whether we’re athletes or not, at the end of the day we’re all human. And when I’m going out into the world, people don’t see ‘Kayla, the athlete,’ they just see ‘Kayla, a Black woman,'” Alexander said.

She’s set to spend her first season with the Lynx, a team she says has always been outspoken and involved in the community.

Moore helps free Missouri man

Moore won four championships with Minnesota over her 2011-2018 WNBA career. But the 2013 Finals MVP and 2014 league MVP has since stepped away in order to work toward freeing a wrongfully convicted prisoner in Missouri.

Moore was there to greet that man, Jonathan Irons, when he walked out of jail on Wednesday.

Irons had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when he was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons’ defence team, according to The New York Times.

Moore says she still plans on sitting out the upcoming season to spend time with her family.

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said it was like Moore got to celebrate another championship.

“For the last few years we watched as [Moore] gracefully committed herself to Jonathan’s case, and as she has done so often on the basketball court, put the Irons team on her back. I am overcome with joy that Maya and all involved were able to reach their goal of Jonathan’s exoneration,” Reeve said.

For Alexander, it’s not surprising to see that type of activism come out of her league because of its mainly Black demographic.

“I think it’s so great all these athletes are using their platforms because it affects us as well. There are a lot of things in the world that need to change so I’m just glad that we’re bringing awareness and people are talking about it,” Alexander said.

Nneka Ogwumike, president of the WNBA players’ union, said this is a major opportunity for the league to use its platform for good.

“We have always been at the forefront of initiatives with strong support of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, the LGBTQ+ community, gun control, voting rights, #MeToo, mental health and the list goes on,” Ogwumike said after the return-to-play agreement was signed.

Season on horizon

The season is set to start in July with a 22-game schedule as opposed to the usual 36 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Players are to report to their teams in Florida by Monday, though the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state has reportedly caused some alarm.

Alexander says she is doing her best to creatively use resources around her to stay fit until she rejoins her team and can start playing five-on-five again. Canada Basketball and the Lynx have both sent her workout programs.

The WNBA is hopeful for a July 24 start — the same day the Tokyo Olympics were supposed to begin. Alexander likely would have been competing on a Canadian team looking for the country’s first basketball medal since 1936.

Alexander says she wasn’t aware of the International Olympic Committee’s ban on protests in the field of play, but adds it would be smart to look into amending the rule.

“We have the opportunity to go out there and compete in a sport we enjoy but at the end of the day when we go back, we’re not playing our sports,” Alexander said. “We’re still living in the world that is dealing with these issues so it’s nothing that we can just escape from. 

“Not all of us have that privilege, unfortunately.”

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Vanessa Bryant Thanks WNBA For Making Daughter Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli & Payton Chester Honorary Draft Picks

Vanessa Bryant Thanks WNBA For Making Daughter Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli & Payton Chester Honorary Draft Picks | Entertainment Tonight

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WNBA star Allie Quigley beats Chris Paul in NBA HORSE Challenge

Allie Quigley is a three-time WNBA All-Star who knocks down 3-point shots with ease.

Yet her status skyrocketed on Sunday for simply winning a game of H-O-R-S-E.

The Chicago Sky star ousted 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul in the quarter-finals of ESPN’s NBA H-O-R-S-E Challenge, standing out on the makeshift cobblestone court complete with chalk lines at her home in Deerfield, Ill.

Quigley was at H-O-R when she finished off the triumph over Paul. She sealed the win with a banked free throw and Paul missed his equalizing attempt at his home in Encino, Calif.

WATCH | Quigley takes down Paul in NBA HORSE Challenge:

Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley beat Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul to advance to the semifinals of the NBA HORSE Challenge. 0:42

Also advancing were Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, former NBA star Chauncey Billups and Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley.

LaVine swept former NBA star Paul Pierce, Billups (H-O-R) rallied to knock off Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young and Conley (H) defeated former WNBA star Tamika Catchings.

LaVine’s win makes for an intriguing battle of Chicago with Quigley being his semifinal opponent on Thursday.

“I’m excited. Both of us play for Chicago,” Quigley said on ESPN’s broadcast. “That’s pretty cool that we’re both representing in the next round.”

Billups and Conley meet in the other semifinal. The championship match will follow the semis.

Stealing the show

The 33-year-old Quigley stole the show on Sunday by methodically putting away Paul.

She made one bank shot while seated on the ground and only had an H when Paul was at H-O-R-S. Paul attempted a comeback but Quigley extinguished it with the free-throw bank to end the quest of the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard.

“I probably would have made a few more if I go back and do it differently,” Paul said after the setback. “She was great. This was a lot of fun too, Allie. I appreciate it.”

LaVine sailed past Pierce while playing in Snohomish, Wash., using a battery of trick shots and long-range shots to easily dispatch the Los Angeles resident.

“Zach, I’m going to give credit to him, he was very creative today,” Pierce said afterward. “He shocked me with a lot of shots. … I take my hat off to him.”

Billups stuns Young

Billups, playing in Denver, looked in trouble early when he had H-O-R while Young had a clean sheet. But the guy known as “Mr. Big Shot” during his playing career recovered in impressive fashion to stun Young, who was playing in Norman, Okla.

“I never panic,” Billups said. “Even if he kept knocking shots down, all I could do is try my best and try to make a few shots. I told you I was a big-time underdog against this kid. It was just my day today.”

Conley, playing indoors in Columbus, Ohio, controlled the flow against Catchings, who is slated to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in late August.

Catchings played outside in Indianapolis.

“Being inside helped me a lot. I see her hair blowing in the wind and I know it is cold in Indiana right now,” Conley said. “Once I made the first couple shots, I felt real comfortable. … I’m happy to move on and happy to compete with a GOAT like Tamika.”

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Can the team-first culture within Canada Basketball convince its WNBA stars to keep coming back?

It is cliché for athletes to say the logo on the front of their jerseys is more meaningful than the name on the back.

But you’ll never hear that from a woman on the Canadian national basketball team. They don’t require clichés to explain the importance of playing for their country.

Former team member Lizanne Murphy was there to lay the foundation of this culture in her 2005 debut season as Canada began rebuilding itself to its current status as a legitimate Olympic threat.

“I felt a role as I got older to really pass that on the importance of the selflessness that comes in playing for Canada and that everybody can be great individually but Canada has found such improvement, such an amazing jump in the world rankings,” Murphy said.

“And a lot of that came through our commitment to the team and that importance of team first.”

Murphy retired in 2017, having helped lift the national program from 24th to fifth worldwide. It now boasts its highest-ever ranking at No. 4.

On the court, that team-first attitude is evident. In the NBA and WNBA, one superstar can lift a team to a title. In international basketball, where the physicality ramps up, coaching scheme and passing are more likely keys to success than one ball-dominant force.

“Canada’s not the biggest country — we never were. We’re not the richest country in terms of budget and ability to train and we’re starting to get unbelievable superstars internationally, but we didn’t always have those and so we knew the only way to get to be among the best in the world is to be the best team in the world,” Murphy said.

WATCH | Kia Nurse is proud to wear the maple leaf:

New York Liberty point guard and WNBA all-star Kia Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., discusses Canada’s opening Olympic qualifying game on Thursday in Ostend, Belgium. 1:51

WATCH | Kayla Alexander aiming to ‘take care of business’:

After returning from a knee injury, the WNBA Chicago Sky centre from Milton, Ont., is happy to be playing for Canada at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Ostend, Belgium. 1:27

For that to happen, players must be committed to wearing the maple leaf. Right now, that means heading to Belgium to compete in this weekend’s Olympic qualifier.

Canada is grouped with host Belgium (No. 9), Japan (No. 10) and Sweden (No. 22). With the Olympics in Tokyo, the Japanese side has an automatic bid.

In Belgium, each team will play the other once, and the top two squads outside of Japan will book berths for the Tokyo Games.

CBC Sports will carry live coverage for all of Canada’s games, beginning on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET against Belgium.

Money small factor for women

Over the summer, the men’s team watched as its NBA players chose not to compete at the World Cup in China, with various players dealing with off-season trades or free-agency decisions or simply resting lingering injuries.

There is no direct financial benefit of playing for Canada. There’s lots of money on the line in the NBA, and with one more Olympic qualifier remaining, many Canadian men did not view the World Cup as all that important.

CBC Sports will also carry live coverage of that men’s tournament in Victoria, beginning June 23.

Of course, the WNBA is not a money-making machine like its men’s counterpart.

Most players also ply their trade overseas in the off-season. Kia Nurse, selected as a WNBA all-star starter in just her second season, also plays in Australia alongside fellow Canuck Bridget Carleton. Three of the five starters on Russia’s WBC Dynamo Novosibirsk pro team are Canadians. There are other players dotted throughout Europe and Asia.

In November, nearly all of them flew back to Edmonton for the Olympic pre-qualifying tournament in Edmonton — including Nurse and Carleton from Australia.

Canadian Kayla Alexander competes for the Adelaide Lightning in the Australian league grand final in Feb. 2019. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Kayla Alexander, a Canadian forward for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, has also played in Russia, Korea, France and Australia.

The 29-year-old Milton, Ont., native was also in Edmonton, but required just the relatively short flight from Toronto. Alexander did not play in that tournament because of a knee injury suffered in the FIBA Americup over the summer, and has spent the WNBA off-season rehabbing near home.

Alexander made her national team debut in 2018 after three failed tryouts — two where she was cut and one where she was injured. Still, she already recognizes the binds that tie together players from around the professional world.

“One thing about our team is we’re all competitive so in practice we will be going at each other no mercy, but at the same time we can still crack jokes with each other and you’re laughing and having a good time,” Alexander said.

WATCH | How Canada can qualify for Tokyo:

Canada is set to play in a tournament starting on Thursday, Feb. 6 that can get them into the Olympics. What do they need to do to get in? 1:09

In January, the WNBA and its players union agreed to a historic collective bargaining agreement that allows players to earn nearly $ 500,000 US, while also raising the salary floor for rookies and veterans. Fully paid maternity leave was another key aspect of the agreement, along with childcare benefits and enhanced travel standards, along with other health and wellness benefits.

Murphy said she was just one of two national team members, along with Tamara Tatham, who played overseas as recently as 2007, though neither played in the WNBA. She credits that experience, and the increasing popularity of that choice, as a big reason for Canada’s ascent.

Still, an off-season overseas is not the most ideal situation, and the rising popularity of women’s basketball means many players can stay home and make money in other ways or alternately affect some difference in their communities.

The new CBA, then, introduces the concept of choice.

“This is at least gonna give them something to say ‘OK, maybe I don’t have to do that, maybe I don’t have to play basketball 12 months out of the year, travel all over the world, live out of a suitcase, never see my family,'” Murphy said.

That may only wind up true for the league’s top players — many will still not command salaries which allow that decision. But it will be interesting to see how commitment to country evolves as the WNBA continues its rise.

Professional women’s hockey is in flux. The NHL refused to attend the last Winter Olympics. NBA players, for the most part, choose to participate in the Olympics, but the top players sit out all the preliminary action — as evidenced by the Americans’ seventh-place finish at August’s World Cup.

The WNBA maintains an Olympic break built into the schedule. Attendance has never been an issue. Players like Murphy have instilled that team-first culture within her country’s national program.

Alexander, entering her eighth WNBA season, seems a lock to play for Canada should it qualify for Tokyo, barring any more health issues. She led the Americup in rebounding and led Canada in points per game.

“You’re always a cut or injury away from not being able to play so I say soak it up and take advantage of every opportunity you get to represent your country.”

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