“There’s a big step between the junior levels and being a world class performer, ultimately being the best in the world at the senior level,” stated Denise Dignard, manager of Elite performance for the Canadian senior women’s national team.
The women’s program has witnessed consistent progress over the last decade and hopes to sustain this trend while transitioning their young talent on the international stage.
With an assorted mixture of promising youth and seasoned veterans, 16 talented women will embark on their upcoming journey to the FIBA World Olympic qualifier in Turkey, June 25- July 1.
Spearheading this squad are Veterans Teresa Gabriele (Mission, BC), Kim Smith (Mission, BC), and Chelsea Aubry (Kitchener, ON).
Gabriele has been a part of the national program for 14 years, while Smith and Aubry have dedicated a decade each.
“These are people who are self-driven and totally committed to representing their country,” Dignard explained.
All three of these athletes have been to two World Championships (’06, ’10) while Teresa was also an Olympian in 2000. The next two veteran athletes are Lizanne Murphy and Tamara Tatham, both who were a part of the 2010 team that went to Worlds.
“There are only three athletes in Canada (Gabriele, Smith, Aubry) who can say that...men or women. They know what it takes and they have to lead by example,” noted Allison McNeill, Senior Women’s Head Coach.
Like the veterans, McNeill has invested over a decade of her life into the national program and has witnessed clear progress over the years for the women.
“Our junior development programs in the last 10 years have been really good. Now our junior players are coming through having had that international experience...and they are loyal, they want to play for their country”
In addition, McNeill praises the provincial bodies for their collective efforts in the development stages.
“You have to give a lot of credit to our provincial organizations as they’ve played their part...it’s a community effort.”
While McNeill will look for guidance and leadership from her usual suspects, the team is dedicated to implement the young guns into the system.
“We work to integrate our young players into the program by getting them into training camps and competition.”
Seven countries have already punched their tickets to the Olympics in London, while five remain on the outside looking in. Among these countries is Canada, who will battle their way into a spot beginning on June 25 at the world qualifiers.
With the Olympic qualifier in the distance and a lot to accomplish, Coach McNeill and the Canada basketball program are looking forward to the upcoming summer! It all starts with a training camp in May with a few exhibition games with Team China before they head across the pond to play in the UK and France. It’s an extensive preparation for the team so that they arrive in Turkey for the qualifier ready to give it their best.
“I’m excited for this whole group...veteran savvy & useful excitement...it’s going to be a competitive training camp.”