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Team Canada Down Under: The Canadian Women’s Basketball Team takes on the World Cup

Team Canada takes on its first major competition with a brand new coaching staff, and the pieces seem to be coming together.

Japan v Canada - FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The FIBA Women’s World Cup is well underway in Sydney, Australia, and the Canadian Senior Women’s Basketball team has something to prove — not just to the world but also to themselves.

Last time we saw the squad in action at a major competition was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games (in July of 2021 of course). The result was disappointing, as Team Canada did not make it to the quarterfinals, finishing 9th place overall.

This time around, the team looks a lot different. With a brand new coaching staff comprised of international talent, it feels like a breath of fresh air has uplifted this team. The struggles of the Olympics behind them, this squad came into the competition ready for action.

There were questions going into the World Cup around the roster — mainly whether or not Kia Nurse would be on it or not. Nurse suffered a torn ACL in the 2021 WNBA semi-finals nearly one year ago to the day, and has spent the time since in recovery. She was re-signed to the Phoenix Mercury for the 2022 season in hopes she would make a return before their playoff run.

The Mercury had mentioned Kia may return around the midseason mark, but as the WNBA All-Star Game came and went, she did not return to action. According to Kia herself, the first nine months of rehab “were a breeze,” but the delays that came in the final stretch of her recovery process frustrated her.

The end of the Phoenix Mercury’s 2021 season arrived, and Kia unfortunately did not return to the court. Yet, that didn’t stop her from continuing to rehab in an attempt to represent Canada at the World Cup. The night before Canada’s opening game in Sydney, Kia announced via Instagram that after 351 days of recovery, she would make her return to the court for Canada.

Returning to the court in Australia wass a special moment for Kia, who spent two seasons playing in the WNBL (Australia’s professional Women’s Basketball League) for the Canberra Capitals. She was the league MVP in 2020 and won two league championships, in 2019 and 2020.

Nurse — along with fellow WNBA stars Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton — as well as Shay Colley, Laeticia Amihere, Nirra Fields, Kayla Alexander, Mael Gilles, Taya Hanson, Sami Hill, Aislinn Konig, and Phillipina Kyei make up the team currently competing in Australia.

Leading the team are Head Coach Victor Lapena, Lead Assistant Coach Noelle Quinn and Assistants Steve Baur and Carly Clarke.

With a new and improved Kia Nurse suited up, Team Canada came out HOT in FIBA World Cup Round Robin competition, winning three of their first four games. They were the second team to clinch a quarter finals spot — shortly after Team USA.

In their first game against Serbia, Canada started out slow but finished with a bang, winning 67-60 thanks to a 13 point performance by Kayla Alexander.

Game two was against France, a team led by defensive powerhouse Gabby Williams. Canada came out on top winning 59-45 against the French. Nirra Fields stepped up with a 17-point, six-rebound game to help Canada.

Next, they faced Japan, who won Silver at last year’s Olympic Games. Canada had their best game yet, winning 70-56 over the Japanese thanks to a 19 point, six rebound game from Bridget Carleton — who plays for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA.

Their only loss came in a close 75-72 game against hosts Australia, another team packed with WNBA talent and coached by World Champion Sandy Brondello. As disappointing as the close loss was, keeping up with a team like Australia is just validation that this Team Canada squad is heading in an incredible direction.

Next, they’ll close out Round Robin action against Team Mali — and with their spot in the quarter finals already confirmed, it’ll be a matter of how they come out in the rankings to determine who they will face.

You can catch all the Team Canada World Cup action on Sportsnet.