Feature photo: Kolbie Orum (12) drives to the basket against Troy on March 18, 2016.
While Canada’s rise in basketball is evident at March Madness, perhaps it is even more apparent in the women’s NCAA tournament where five Canadian players are heading to the final four on three teams.
When the tournament began on March 18th, there were a total of 22 Canadian women on 13 different teams. With the April 3 tip-off to decide who will compete for the National Championship looming, five Canadians remain on three of the remaining four rosters. This means the tournament is guaranteed to have at least one Canadian representative competing for the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
Lisa Thomaidis, head coach of the national team that will be competing in the Olympic Games this summer in Rio, tweeted out her support for the remaining Canadians.
So who remains?
Nurse has become accustom to showing up big in tournaments. She scored 33 points in the gold medal game against the United States this past summer, leading Canada to win gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. She also won gold and an Olympic spot with Canada at the 2015 FIBA America’s Women’s Championships, as well as silver at the same tournament in 2013. Now she looks to help Connecticut (ranked no. 1) win back-to-back National Championships.
This two-time youth bronze medalist with Team Canada, played on the national team in 2012 that competed at the FIBA U17 World Championship and in 2011 at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Now a member of the Oregon State Beavers, Orum looks to bring a National Championship to Beaver-nation along with teammates and fellow Canadians, Jamie Weisner & Ruth Hamblin.
Considered one of college basketball’s most efficient scorers, Weisner is no stranger to representing Canada on the biggest stages. In 2014 she helped the Development Women’s National Team to a 1st place showing at the 35th Jones Cup in Taiwan and has been on a Canadian National team for three straight years. In the NCAA this season, Weisner has earned All Pac-12 honours and has been a major key to the Beavers success in this tournament with 79 points, 27 rebounds and seven assists.
Oregon hosts another one of Canada’s top women’s basketball talent with Hamblin, considered one of the best pure centres in women’s college basketball and has been a defensive force in her time with the Beavers. Her 45 points, 14 blocks and 55 rebounds has helped Oregon State shut down the competition and position themselves for a shot at the national title. Hamblin has played on a Canadian national team for four straight years, including a second place showing as a member of Canada’s developmental team in 2015 at the FISU Games.
Currently a freshman at Syracuse University, Julia Chandler was one of Canada’s top young prospects as a four-star recruit coming out of high school. Chandler has spent three years playing with the Canadian national team on the U19, U18, U17 and U16 squads.
What Canadian stars have stood out?
Adut Bulgak has been a dominant force for the Florida State Seminoles since joining the team in 2014-15. Bulgak led the Seminoles to the third round of the tournament with 38 points, 28 rebounds, seven blocks.
The senior guard is part of one of the top front courts in women’s college basketball. She helped the UCLA Bruins reach the Sweet 16 with her 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, where her career ended in a hard fought loss to the Texas Longhorns. Fields is also a member of the women’s national team, helping to lead Canada to back-to-back gold medals and qualifying for Rio 2016.
The 6′ 4″ centre helped the Arizona State Sun Devils get to the second round of the tournament with her 15 points and seven rebounds. The Sun Devils were knocked out of the second round with a disappointing loss to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
The Green Bay Phoenix may have been knocked out of the tournament in the first round but it wasn’t without a valiant effort on the part of Kaili Lukan, whose 12 points and five rebounds helped keep her team close but ultimately fell short 59-53 to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Here is the list of every Canadian (underneath respective schools) that competed in the women’s Division I NCAA basketball tournament in 2016.
Kia Nurse – Hamilton, ON
Robert Morris Colonials
Mikalah Mulrain – Brampton, ON
Megan Smith – Baden, ON
Yasmyne Salhia – Toronto, ON
Brianna Thomas – Ajax, ON
Michelle Hudyn – Kitchener, ON
Nirra Fields – Montreal, QC
Florida State Seminoles
Adut Bulgak – Victoria, BC
Oregon State Beavers
Kolbie Orum – Maple Ridge, BC
Ruth Hamblin – Houston, BC
Jamie Weisner – Clarkston, WA
Albany Great Danes
Jessica Fequiere – Montreal, QC
Veronika Lavergne – Ottawa, ON
Khara Keane – Toronto, ON
Cassandra Edwards – Brampton, ON
Julia Chandler – Toronto, ON
Ayoleka Sodade – Windsor, ON
Green Bay Phoenix
Kaili Lukan – Barrie, ON
Arizona State Sun Devils
Quinn Dornstauder – Regina, SK
San Francisco Dons
Cierra Roufosse – Abbotsford, BC
Alicia Roufosse – Abbotsford, BC
Zayn Dornstauder – Regina, SK
For coverage of the women’s Final Four, tune into TSN 5 on Sunday April 3 at 6 p.m. ET, to watch Oregon State vs. Connecticut and 8:30 p.m. ET, to watch Washington vs. Syracuse.