Following a March Madness run to the Elite Eight in this year’s Women’s NCAA Tournament with the Louisville Cardinals, Russell has returned to the classroom where she’s preparing for final exams before her third year at Louisville officially comes to a close.
Though the tournament and the team’s Elite Eight loss to the No. 2 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes is still fresh in her mind, Russell is already able to reflect on her junior season.
“We finished really strong and I'm proud of us,” Russell said. “We had some really low lows, but we finished on a high. I’m just proud of us for pushing through. We made it a very deep tournament run that we weren't supposed to make, so I was proud of the girls and individually [as well]. I kind of solidified my spot for the last three months of the season and I was able to finish strong and help the team be as good as we were at the end.”
Russell’s plans for the summer include remaining on campus to continue training in preparation of her senior year, as well as returning to Toronto to participate in the second annual GLOBL JAM tournament taking place in July.
After captaining Canada to gold medal winning performance with Team Canada at the inaugural GLOBL JAM tournament a year ago, Russell is a strong supporter of the event. the experience, and exposure it can provide for young players.
With Canada Basketball announcing that Louisville's women’s program will be representing Team USA in this year’s GLOBL JAM tournament, Russell will be back on Canadian soil and her Cardinals teammates will be right there with her.
“There's so many people that I'm just excited for,” Russell continued. “Women's basketball in Canada, the growth of it, just having the WNBA exhibition game, too, in Toronto as well before the tournament, that's going to be huge for the country. And then having this tournament again, GLOBL JAM and so much of what was added to the tournament as well as to the country.”
Russell was quick to sign on to this year’s tournament after having such a positive experience in the inaugural event last summer. Getting to play for Canada on Canadian soil was a huge drawing point, as was getting to play in front of friends and family.
“It was so amazing,” she said. “I think that's a huge deal and it is so important to be able to play in front of my country, in my country. It was amazing. I had so much pride and was so proud of myself and my teammates for us to have this opportunity.”
After battling her fellow Canadians, including Aaliyah Edwards and Shy Day-Wilson in the NCAA over the past few seasons, getting to share the court with Canada’s best young talent was another perk of the event.
“You know, growing up, [we played together], and then we move on to play with our [respective] college teams, but with GLOBL JAM we are able to come back together and play in the summertime,” she said.
As the lone Canadian on Louisville’s roster, Russell is used to being away from home. Her freshman season was during the start of the pandemic, meaning no trips home nor on-campus visits from her family. With Louisville participating in this year’s GLOBL JAM, Russell is excited to show her teammates around Toronto. While the Ottawa native won’t quite be showing off her home city, it’s pretty close.
“It’s close enough [for them to] get the experience of some part of Canada, right?” Russell said. “They have no idea what to expect and I just hope they have a great time. I know they will. It’s a new experience and they will get to experience where basketball has taken me around the world from [to Louisville].”
Russell’s junior year was a great one. She appeared in 37 games for the Cards, setting career-highs across the board as her minutes and opportunities increased.
“I think that I've gained a lot more confidence,” she said. My playing time went up and I was able to finish the year strong with my team and contribute for my team. I really just kind of honed in on my confidence, worked on my skill, and I'm going to the offseason and these tournaments that I'm able to play in the summer just kind of wanting to improve my confidence and improve my skill and just showcase what I have.”
Heading into a busy offseason, Russell is looking forward to continuing to build on the role she’s carved out for herself in Louisville.
I'm working very hard this offseason to be able to go into this next season,” she said. “I’ll hopefully be playing as much as I can and contributing to my team as best as I can.”