Emerson Thomas isn’t easily impressed. So you can imagine Dwight Walton’s surprise
when he got a phone call from his fellow Team Canada basketball alum one afternoon
seven years ago. “Dwight,” said Thomas, “I just saw the greatest girls’ basketball player
I’ve ever seen in my life.” Nirra Fields, in Grade 7 and not yet 13, was the only girl on a
court full of older boys in the Montreal borough of LaSalle. And she was dominating.
Dribbling behind her back, weaving through the lane like an ambulance speeding through
rush-hour traffic, absorbing contact and fishing at the rim with ease, it was obvious Fields
was a special player. “She was doing things at 12 that you can’t teach,” says Walton. Raised by
a single mother in nearby Lachine and the youngest in a family of brothers, Fields was used to
the competition. She even played running back for the boys’ team in elementary school as early
as age 11. “She’s a strong individual, and you’d have to be, “Walton adds. “It’s taken her where
she is today.” 

Which, it turns out, is as far from Montreal rec-league ball as it gets, living with Los Angeles
Lakers head coach Mike Brown and his family in sunny California and starring as a senior at
Mater Dei High School in nearby Santa Ana. The third-highest-rated guard in the U.S., and the
brightest young star in the Canadian national women’s program, Fields may just be the most
talented female player our country has ever produced. Earlier this year, she turned down
scholarship offers from Michigan State, Louisville and UConn, committing instead to UCLA,
where the five-foot-nine combo guard is expected to start as a freshman for the Bruins in the
fall. That Fields is excelling at the highest level is no surprise to anyone who’s seen her play.
But nobody could have predicted the path she took to get there—five schools, four cities and
three guardians in four years. It’s a familiar route for Canadian boys looking to break into the
NCAA (save for the whole “living with an NBA coach” thing), but it’s one that very few girls
have travelled. Not that it should be a surprise. When it comes to basketball, Fields isn’t like
the other girls. She’s better. 

To read the entire article by Dave Zarum from Sportsnet Magazine press here