Queens of The North

By Druv Sareen

The effects of great moments are never seen at first. They build over time and after years we begin to see their results take shape. When Stephen Curry emerged on the scene years ago and began to hoist threes at an unprecedented level, the effect it would have on the NBA would be lost in the shuffles and shimmies. Now we live in a basketball world where even the leagues centers are shooting from all over the court.

In Toronto, we have our specific great moments. People point to the wave of NBA talent that grew up under the Vince Carter era of Raptor’s Basketball. As tumultuous a time as it was, it shaped young players into the future professionals they would become. Their eyes fixated as  Vinsanity floated through the air to dunk the basketball over any ill-timed defender.

With the Raptor’s winning the NBA championship this summer, another great moment in Canadian basketball was born. But when we look back on this moment in the future, don’t forget to pay attention to the effect it had on women’s basketball in Canada.

Following the championship north is a bid to bring a WNBA team to Toronto. It makes sense, after the NBA championship, the country is still under basketball fever. The WNBA has seen its own strong year with its growth in the media spotlight. 

The WNBA has finally been added to NBA 2K20, allowing NBA fanatics to play as their favourite WNBA teams. On the statistical side, Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics became the first-ever WNBA player to join the illustrious 50-40-90 club: a group of players who were able to finish a season averaging a 50 per cent field-goal percentage, a 40 per cent three-point percentage and a 90 per cent free-throw percentage.

Bill Carriere is the reigning coach of the year and Head Coach of the Fanshawe Falcons Women’s Basketball Team. Carriere has won four previous championships in the OCAA and a previous coach of the year award in the 90s. He thinks that a WNBA team could help stimulate women’s basketball in Canada.

“Just as the Raptors have done to our country, I think a WNBA team would even invigorate, especially female athletes to pursue [the game] after their college careers. I think that would be a great addition to our country for sure,” he said.

Carriere knows that the effect wouldn’t be instantaneous but it would lead to better basketball in Canada.

“It would take a while, it’s not something that can happen overnight, but within a decade I can see women’s basketball flourishing even more. I would love to see it; I still feel like our league deserves better players. We’re not getting that,” says Carriere.

He says that a lot of women’s basketball players are attracted to the university basketball league for their degree programs, but don’t get the same playing experience.

Bill Carriere’s Fanshawe Falcons won because of their depth and intense defence. Photo courtesy of OCAA. 

“They’re all going to university basketball because it is a better league. I find that there’s a lot of players that are making the top seven or eight on their squad, and not playing. They finish their degree programs and they end up not playing,” he said.

“I just wish that those players would come to college because we have so much to offer, college is awesome. Along with a great game of basketball. We do have great programs, academically, and also degree programs. So, I would hope that the WNBA would just bring more attention to the game and we have more kids play.”

Carriere’s daughter Nicole is an assistant coach for the Fanshawe Falcons and a former player in the OCAA.  She thinks a WNBA team in Canada could help grow the sport. 

“I think having a WNBA team in Canada would increase the awareness and the popularity of women’s basketball overall in Ontario. I think that it would help young generations of athletes who are seeing those role models within their own town,” she said. “Having more opportunities to watch basketball at a high level would bring more popularity to it. So, I think that at a young level, at a young age, the kids will be like, wow, I want to do that and then work harder and join basketball and stick with it longer than they are now.”

Nicole Carriere says that the talent pool in the OCAA has grown since her time in the association. “I think the competition’s grown since then even. When I played, I feel like the caliber of basketball had already improved and I think it’ll keep improving,” she said.

Carriere said she thinks a few of the OCAA players have the potential for the WNBA. “I think that the top-level players, I don’t think there are many, but there might be a couple of high-level players that have the potential to reach that.”

Kayla Alexander is a current WNBA player who hails from Milton, Ontario. She’s been in the league since 2013 and plays for the Chicago Sky.  She also plays for the Canadian national team and helped lead them to a silver medal at the FIBA AmeriCup averaging  22.8 minutes, 15.6 points, and led the tournament with 10.2 rebound per game.

Alexander thinks a WNBA team in Toronto would provide important representation for young women in Canada.

“I feel like that would be amazing, especially for young girls, like seeing fellow Canadian women who are playing in the league and being like, ‘ Wow, it’s possible, as a fellow Canadian, I’m from so and so and I want to be like them and it’s possible,’” Alexander said. “I think that representation is so important and huge. I think it honestly makes a difference like if young girls can see themselves where they want to be, I think a big dream becomes more realistic.”

Alexander thinks the talent pool exists in Canada. “I feel like the talent is there. And you see more and more young girls going state-side every year for scholarship opportunities to play. So, I 100 percent feel like the level is there and it’s growing and we’re getting more and more competitive,” she said.

Alexander said she didn’t think about the WNBA team until her senior year at Syracuse, when her father saw her draft stock rising.

I think what kind of solidified the deal was my father, he would always check out the mock draft and I was never on there. I didn’t expect to be on there and then one day, my name just popped up at the very last name of the mock draft and then my senior year he said that my name just kept going slowly up and up the mock draft.”

Alexander thinks having a local team would show Canadian players the skill and determination they would need to succeed in the WNBA.

 “I think that it’d create extra motivation for them to like, try for it, I feel like once again representation is huge like they are inspired by a local team. Seeing girls or women compete at a high level every night seeing what it takes to get to that level,” she said. “I feel like they’ll take that to their training, to their everyday practices, their mentality would change because they’re like okay, I see what it takes to be at this level. Now what do I need to do to be able to compete at this level?”

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