Photo Couresy of:

Canada basketball
Canada Basketball

From the Final Four to GLOBL JAM, it's shaping up to be a year to remember for Merissah Russell



Jun 16, 2022

It’s shaping up to be a pretty good year for Merissah Russell.

After a sophomore season that saw Russell and the Louisville Cardinals make it to the Final Four, the 22-year-old Ottawa, Ontario native can’t believe she gets to represent Canada at this year’s GLOBL Jam in Toronto.

Spending her time between Ottawa and Louisville, where she’s been training hard, even in the early parts of her offseason, the upcoming GLOBL JAM FIVES tournament has provided her an opportunity to reflect on her own basketball journey.

“I played on our elementary school team and I was having so much fun,” Russell said. “I stole the ball. I never scored a point because I was going so fast and I had no skill, I’d get wide-open fastbreak layups and just break them. I never made any of them, but it was fun.”

Russell laughs when recalling those early missed layups, as well as when she explains how she used to pretend she was LeBron James when she was shooting around in her driveway. Though Russell is still just 21 years old, she can already see a huge shift in the amount of coverage basketball is getting in Canada, as well as the visibility of the WNBA and the women’s game.

“The women's basketball coverage, let alone college basketball, women's college basketball [has grown so much],” she said. “It's just amazing. My story growing up, I watched LeBron James and now, young girls at that age [they’re] watching the WNBA, women's college basketball. They actually have women to look up to. I think it's so powerful and so inspiring because look how far we made it without watching role models. Just imagine how far we can get with role models, right? So it's just an amazing thing to be a part of and I just can't wait to see the game grow and the media around the game continue to grow as well.”

This year’s Final Four experience with Louisville is something Russell calls incredible, pointing out that some coaches spend 30 years coaching in the NCAA and don’t make it to a Final Four.

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

“It was one of my favourite teams that ever played on,” she said. “Just making the final four of college basketball. It’s just so crazy when you're in it, to kind of step back and think that we were the best four teams in the country and it started at 64, 68 teams. It just was such a great experience.”

Another favourite for Russell has been every time she’s gotten to suit up for Canada and play with the national team.  

“Canada is amazing,” she said. “Just being able to put on the red and white and have Canada across my chest is always a great experience. I mean, my parents are immigrants from Jamaica, my sister is actually in the Canadian military. She went to the Canadian Royal Military College. So just being able to represent the country playing basketball and her being able to represent in the military, when both of our parents immigrated here, it's just an amazing experience to do so. To be able to do that with a sport, like when you break it down, all we're doing is putting a little ball in a big hoop and just all the experiences, all the countries I’ve gone to, just representing Canada for the sport, it's amazing. So I owe Canada Basketball a lot of development and a lot of my experiences and I couldn't. I couldn't replace that with anything else.”

Russell has already already crossed some lofty goals off of her basketball to-do list, but becoming an Olympian with the Senior Women’s National Team is at the top of the list. Russell’s most recent outing with the Senior Team was at this year’s FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament 2022 in Osaka, Japan where Canada went 1-1.

“Just getting to travel for basketball is amazing, but gosh, I think the best place was Australia for the Commonwealth Games in 2018,” she said. “That was my first multi-sport event and it was basically like a step down from the Olympics. We had the village and stuff, so that’s a no-brainer, just getting to see and experience that.”

Though the travel has been one of Russell’s favourite things that basketball has given her, it’s been a long three years since she’s gotten to play at home.

Getting to be so close to Ottawa for the inaugural GLOBL JAM is extra special for Russell because it will be one of the first times her parents have gotten to see her play a full game since she left Canada after high school for basketball.

The event will see the world’s best young talent coming together to face off for a week, beginning on July 5 in Toronto.  Session passes (2 games) are on sale now via Ticketmaster.

After going to all of her high school games and never missing an opportunity to see her play, things changed when Russell left for the U.S. for school. Because of the pandemic, her family hadn’t been able to travel to see her play with Louisville. The showcase provides an opportunity for family and friends to cheer her on live and in person.

Russell’s last game in Canada was when she was named MVP of the first ever BioSteel All Canadian Girls Game in 2019 after dropping 30 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. While her game has certainly continued to grow and expand since then, so, too has her appreciation for the strong foundation of fundamentals that was built during her years at home.

She laughs when recalling all of those bricked layups in the very beginning of her basketball journey, but Russell also made sure to shout out coach Fabienne Blizzard who has worked with Team Canada’s cadet teams and currently coaches at Capital Courts Academy, which she founded. Russell first met Blizzard after she and her sister were racing around a football field following a touch football game.

“At the end of the game, this lady came up to me and she was like, ‘Do you play basketball?’ And of course I’m like, ‘Yeah I play basketball,’ not knowing who she was and she was Fabienne Blizzard. She has really been it for my career. She is the one who saw me playing for Canada before I could even play basketball. She's the one who fixed my shot. She has taught me everything I know, introduced me to everything that I needed to know, and kind of made me who I am, the basketball player that I am. I kind of owe my whole career to her and all my experiences, I couldn’t talk about my journey without talking about her.”

Whenever Russell returns home for a visit, she’s always happy to speak with younger players about their journeys, as well as answer any questions they may have about her own path. Giving back is something that comes naturally to Russell. Getting to be an inspiration simply by playing the game that she loves is a gift she doesn’t take lightly.

When she hits the court this July in Toronto, she knows there will be many young girls and boys watching and she’s thrilled they’ll have a chance to take in the action live and in person.

“Just to be able to showcase our talent, like our homegrown talent at home [is going to be amazing],” Russell said. “Some people won't ever understand it, but it's just such a crazy concept that you can think about because we're always leaving to play. You always train in Canada and then you leave [for tournaments and competition]. It's just amazing to have a competition on home soil so people know and see the people that have seen us when we were younger.

“It’s kind of come full circle, you know what I mean?” Russell continued. “ I'm very excited about it. I just know it's going to be a great time and a great experience. Canadians, like young girls that want to be in a position to be able to actually come to a game and see what they want to be, it’s just great. I think that's very exciting.”

Set to take place in Toronto from July 5-10, GLOBL JAM will shine the international spotlight on the game’s rising stars and feature women’s and men’s teams from around the world competing in an Under-23 tournament live at Mattamy Athletic Centre and broadcast nationally on Sportsnet. Additional ticket information, along with schedule and volunteer opportunities can be found at