Basketball

Edwards, Pellington thriving as leaders on Canada's Globl Jam under-23 team

The Canadian women went a perfect 3-0 through the preliminary round of the inaugural FIBA Globl Jam. They face the U.S. in Saturday's semifinals of the under-23 tournament that has been a terrific chance for younger players like Aaliyah Edwards and Shaina Pellington to hone leadership skills.

Canadian women enter Saturday's semifinal vs. U.S. after 3-0 run in preliminary round

19-year-old Aaliyah Edwards, seen during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has used the inaugural FIBA Globl Jam with the Canadian women's national team as an opportunity to hone her leadership skills. (@UConnWBB/Twitter)

Canada's senior women's basketball team sat courtside at Mattamy Athletic Centre as under-23 stars Aaliyah Edwards, Merissah Russell and Shaina Pellington dismantled France on Thursday.

The Canadian women went a perfect 3-0 through the preliminary round of the inaugural FIBA Globl Jam. They face the United States in Saturday's semifinals of the under-23 tournament that has been a terrific chance for younger players like Edwards and Pellington to hone leadership skills they can carry over to the senior side.

"When they're in our atmosphere, they're learning, they're the rookies, they're the young players, they're trying to be sponges," said senior team veteran Natalie Achonwa. "But it's definitely important for their confidence and further leadership to be able to go back to their peers and take what they've learned from our senior team.

"And not only just in how they play, but also how they conduct themselves ... and just really passing on the culture that starts up top, starts with us and trying to bring that through all of our age groups."

Edwards, who's 19, Pellington (23), and Russell (20) were the youngsters on Canada's Olympic team last summer in Tokyo, but should play far bigger roles in 2024 in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles.

Edwards, a Kingston, Ont., native and forward for the Connecticut Huskies, had 20 points and 10 rebounds against France, her third double-double in as many games. She said the chance to be a leader is a "full-circle" moment.

Canada's Shaina Pellington moves the ball up court during a Globl Jam game against France in Toronto on Thursday. (The Canadian press/HO-Globl Jam)

"Having the experience with the women's national team, I had a lot of mentors. All my big sisters carrying me up to that level, they're now moving on with their professional careers, so for me to be able to step up is what coach has been harping on, to be a leader and guide the next generation," she said.

Senior women's coach Victor Lapena has kept a close eye on the under-23 women this week.

"To see how they are improving during the tournament is wow, it's very good," he said.

Carly Clarke, head coach with the U23s, and an assistant with the senior squad, said a huge part of the Globl Jam event is giving the young players the opportunities to step up as leaders, "and have a prominent role in making some things happen out there.

"Especially after last summer. They get an opportunity to be at the Olympics and now we need more," she said.

Pellington, a Pickering, Ont., native and guard for the Arizona Wildcats, said she's used to being one of the youngest players on teams.

"Now on this team, I'm like the oldest. So, it's a really different role for me," she said. "And it's something that me and Carly have discussed, taking more of a leadership role now than I am older. It's something that I'm trying to work on and do a better job of throughout the course of these games."

The Canadian women also defeated Belgium and the U.S. in Globl Jam preliminary-round games. The Canadian men went 2-1, beating Brazil and the United States before losing to Italy. They also play the U.S. in Saturday's semifinals.

The gold-medal games go Sunday.

Canada Basketball announced earlier this week that the tournament will return to Toronto next summer.

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