Sussex coach helps prepare Canadian women to win basketball medal in Mexico
Erin McAleenan will be on the bench as Canada's under-18 team tries to qualify for world championship
The Canadian under-18 women's basketball team is ranked fourth in the country, and coach Erin McAleenan wants to make sure it stays there and wins a medal at the U-18 Americas Championship in Mexico.
The Sussex-born basketball coach is an assistant for the team, which arrived in Mexico City on Sunday night.
"Any opportunity where you have Canada across your chest, it's kind of those goosebumps right before the game starts, where you have that sense of pride that you're given the opportunity to be able to do this," said McAleenan.
Our number one goal is to qualify for worlds next summer.- Erin McAleenan
"Being selected and chosen to have the opportunity to coach at the highest level by representing my country is definitely a blessing."
McAleenan has been working with the team for the past two weeks at York University, where she coaches during the university season.
The players were supposed to practise in Mexico City on Monday morning but cancelled because of their late arrival in the country. Canada was to get a warm-up with a scrimmage against its top competition, the United States, later in the day.
The fact these players have barely played together is a challenge for McAleenan and the rest of the coaching staff.
"We have to get everybody on the same page, so we focus primarily on our system, and what our style of play is going to be," she said.
"Right from day one, just putting the girls through different situations and different drills."
Qualifying for the worlds
An important element of the tournament in Mexico is that the top four teams qualify for the world championship in 2019. The United States is on the opposite side of the bracket to Canada, so if Canada does face the U.S., it will be for the gold medal.
Canada qualified for the world championship tournament last year and won bronze.
The team's number one goal this time is to qualify for the worlds next year, she said.
"We're definitely trying to be a disruptive defensive team," said McAleenan.
"Offensively, I think we're trying to capitalize on some of our guards that can really get out and have good scoring opportunities in transition, and then also getting the ball inside to our forwards."
Players to watch
Guards Roxane Makolo and Taya Hanson and forward Christina Morra will be players to watch and should be go-to scorers for Team Canada, McAleenan said.
Though there are no New Brunswick players on the team, Rachel Farwell of Rothesay worked with the team during its training camp and would've been put on the tournament roster if there had been an injury.
Canada will play its first game of the tournament against Colombia on Wednesday.