As temperatures plummeted across Canada last week, members of the Senior Women’s National Team were soaking up a rare week of in-person instruction in France. Together for a training camp session as well as an exhibition game against Villeneuve-d’Ascq, the team took advantage of the international window for women’s basketball as scheduled by FIBA.
Shay Colley was among the 12 players taking part in the camp. As always, when given a chance to represent Canada and spend time with her national team teammates, Colley jumped at the opportunity.
“It never gets old, putting on the Canada jersey,” Colley said.
With a camp roster that included veterans like Colley, Kia Nurse and Bridget Carleton, as well as some younger NextGen age-group athletes, the week was about gaining familiarity on and off court, as well as preparing in advance of this summer's FIBA Women's AmeriCup .
“Every time we get to come together and practice, train, or even just the bonding that we’re doing here, it is just amazing,” Colley said. “It speaks to Canada Basketball as an organization, but also as a family. It’s important for the program to get us together as much as possible and we really relish the time together, on and off the court. Whether it’s for a week or a few days or a month, we really take the time that we have and we’re happy that we have this time together.”
The 27-year-old Michigan State alum finished with 10 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in the team’s exhibition match against Villeneuve-d’Ascq, her first action with the national team since helping the program to a fourth-place finish at the FIBA 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup this past September.
Colley is now in her 10th year with the program. It wasn't lost on her that a few of the NextGen players at camp are still in high school.
“It makes me feel like one of the old ones,” Colley said. “Kia and Bridget and I were talking about that. When we were young players coming up we were always looking up to the older players and now we’re the vets so it’s like, full circle.”
Colley is passionate about passing along what she’s learned from the players that helped to build up the program before her. She’s also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with head coach Víctor Lapeña and lead assistant coach Noelle Quinn. In addition to last week’s camp providing an opportunity for the team’s veteran players to work with NextGen athletes, it also meant more in-person coaching time for Lapeña and Quinn with the team.
“To be coached by Victor is amazing,” Colley said. “His passion for the game is second to none. He wants you to get better. He wants the best for you as a player. He truly does care about you as a person and as a basketball player. I’m very blessed to have this experience, being coached by him and learning from him, for sure.”
While Lapeña’s passion and exuberance can be seen clearly from the sideline, Colley also appreciates the steadying calm that Quinn provides.
“Just to pick her brain and learn from her, I find it amazing,” Colley said. “I can go to Noelle when I need understanding of something, or a better feel for what we need out of this player. She’s been amazing to learn from. She's so calm and cool. In stressful game time situations, I look at her and she relaxes me. She tells me, ‘You’ve got this.’”
Though the team’s time in France flew by, Colley and the rest of the vets made it a priority to pass along what they’ve learned to the NextGen players with the group.
When Colley first joined the program, the team’s veteran players were always open and available to teach her the ropes. Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy and Natalie Achonwa set the tone for new players joining the fold. Though Gaucher and Murphy have closed out their chapters playing for the national team, Achonwa is still leading the way, serving as team captain.
“Leaving the program better off than the one you came to,” Colley said of the goal she has inherited from the program's veterans. “Setting great examples, inspiring the next generation, sticking to the Canadian Basketball core values. Making sure we pass those onto the next generation coming up, what it really takes representing Canada at the highest level.
“Nothing is given, everything is earned,” Colley continued. “Know you’re representing Canada and not just yourself. Really instilling those core values and making sure we do that no matter where we do it, whether in the WNBA, or Canada or playing pro in Spain, France, it doesn’t matter. We’re representing Canada.”