Los Angeles native Jordin Canada takes on lead role for Sparks

As if an overtime loss to the defending champions on the road wasn’t enough for Jordin Canada to start his career with the Sparks, the former Windward School and UCLA star received a very warm welcome. in Los Angeles on social media. media the next day.

A tweet from Magic Johnson.

“Yo that’s crazy!” Canada wrote in response after the Lakers legend hailed Canada’s addition to the Sparks following the team’s season opener victory over the Chicago Sky. “From Showtime itself!”

Taking inspiration from another playmaker, Canada hopes to usher in the next exciting era of professional basketball in its hometown. The speedy 5-foot-6 point guard who grew up on the street in the Grove is averaging a career-high 15.5 points with 4.5 assists, leading the Sparks (2-2) to a strong start on the road ahead of their home opener on Tuesday. against the Minnesota Lynx at Crypto.com Arena.

A former star of Windward and UCLA, Canada can return to their role as a go-to player after four years as Sue Bird’s understudy with the Seattle Storm. His performance on opening night – a career-high 21 points that included three late free throws to send the game into overtime as the Sparks knocked down the Sky in Chicago – showed Canada are more than ready. to take center stage.

For UCLA coach Cori Close, Canada’s start to the season wasn’t the birth of a WNBA star, but rather a reminder of what Canada has always had.

“When the pressure is the highest, she’s the one who’s going to want to make a play,” Close said. “[She’s now] a new, better and more improved version because she made so much progress and growth and learning when she was in Seattle. But that’s what she’s always had: she’s had the competitive heart of a lion.

The fiery competitor hides in an inconspicuous exterior. Sparks head coach Derek Fisher noted that Canada is “more of a quiet leader.” But “there’s just something about the big moment that brings out something about shy little Jordin,” Close said, “and it’s fierce.”

Canada’s fearless alter ego has already left a trail of victories all over his hometown.

As a freshman at Windward, she made the game-winning three-pointer with 47 seconds left to win the program’s first state title in Division IV. She came out as a senior with an Open Division championship, dismantling top-ranked Mater Dei for her third CIF South Division title with 14 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and one assist. in a complete 61-46 rout.

Her UCLA career began with another title as she scored 31 points and four steals while making 13 of 15 free throws to lead the Bruins to the WNIT Championship. The Bruins enjoyed success in the school’s first consecutive Sweet 16 appearances (three in total), which included UCLA’s first Elite Eight appearance since 1999. To get the Bruins over the hump, the Canada, then a senior, scored 20 for his team. 22 points in the second half against Texas and added eight assists and five steals.

UCLA coach Cori Close talks to Jordin Canada during a timeout during a game against Baylor in 2017.

(Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press)

Even in a limited role in Seattle, Canada had similar moments of brilliance. As a rookie, Canada shot 35.7% from the field and 18.2% from three in the regular season. Those numbers jumped to 47.7% and 36.4%, respectively, in the playoffs, helping the Storm win the 2018 WNBA championship, the first of two titles for Canada in four years with the team.

Canada played 115 regular season games with 48 starts and valiantly replaced Bird when the 12-time star missed the 2019 season. But Canada averaged a modest 7.2 points with 2.1 rebounds and 4 .1 assists for the Storm in the regular season.

The Storm drafted Canada fifth overall in 2018, anticipating that UCLA’s all-time leader and second-leading scorer would be the heir apparent to Bird, who, after all, was 36 at the start. ‘era. The five-time Olympic gold medalist’s career spanned a 21st season this year, and after four years of delaying Olympians Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, Canada faced a tough decision as a free agent.

“I think Jordin was really hungry to do more,” Bird said, “to show off more, which is totally understandable.”

As Canada takes on a bigger role with the Sparks, she and Bird have noted the young point guard’s maturation in the league. Canada relished the opportunity to learn the way Bird plays and thinks about the game. She took a back seat to observe how to lead a championship team. Now in Los Angeles, she has the keys and presses the accelerator.

The Sparks were the weakest team in the WNBA last season, averaging 72.8 points per game and 93.7 points per 100 possessions. It was the lowest offensive efficiency in Sparks history, according to Basketball Reference. Those marks are 80 and 97.2 points, respectively, to start the season despite a tough four-game road trip to start the year with a missing roster from veteran steady guard Kristi Toliver, who coaches with the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. of the NBA, and precision wing Katie Lou Samuelson, who is ending her season on the road.

With a promising start to the season, one-team owner Johnson took to Twitter to persuade fans to attend home games, using a local girl as the headliner.

“LA fans, come check out @LASparks star Jordin Canada!” Johnson tweeted after the season opener, adding Canada’s credentials of playing at Windward School and UCLA. It has been liked nearly 2,500 times.

Getting a Twitter shoutout from Johnson was humbling, Canada said. He is “one of the greatest basketball players to ever play basketball, let alone play for the Lakers,” she marveled nearly a week later.

Canada grew up a die-hard Lakers fan, obsessed with Kobe Bryant and relishing in the city’s championship tradition. Identifying the inspiration for his own late-game exploits isn’t difficult.

“We kind of have this sense of arrogance when we play the game,” Canada said of his Los Angeles roots. “Just that not backing down the mentality, rising to the occasion and just being challenged and accepting that challenge.”

Turning into a role player after playing in every team since childhood was difficult, Canada admitted, but that comes with being a professional. She developed confidence in her unique game. A 17.9% three-point shooter in Seattle, Canada, prefers to think of himself as a mid-range assassin a la Chris Paul. She learned to be ready at all times.

Regardless of its role, Canada remained focused on its ultimate goal.

“Winning is the most important thing for Jordin Canada,” Close said. “I think that’s what allows him” to take on different roles. “She would rather win and compete at the highest level than be a star or be the talk of the town. If she can do both, great, but her direction to winning paths will always be the predominant value.

Jordin Canada passes over the kicked-off leg of Aces guard Dearica Hamby.

Jordin Canada passes over the kicked-off leg of Aces guard Dearica Hamby during a game with the Seattle Storm last season.

(Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Canada, a McDonald’s All-American and a five-star prospect from Windward, rejected offers from established women’s basketball powerhouses like Connecticut and Tennessee in favor of building its hometown Bruins.

The Bruins went to their fourth straight Sweet 16 the year after Canada graduated, and their five-game streak at NCAA tournaments was the longest in school history. The program has had no more than three years of consecutive WNBA draft picks before Canada and fellow 2018 draft pick Monique Billings. Now, five Bruins have heard their names called in four straight years.

But Canada never won the championship, which would have been UCLA’s first NCAA title. With the Sparks, it’s a new opportunity to realize a decades-old dream.

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