'I love the experience so far': Jordin Canada settling in to first AU season
Playing in Hungary in 2022, veteran Jordin Canada started seeing marketing and social-media posts about Athletes Unlimited.
In turn, she started watching the inaugural AU Basketball season and was immediately impressed.
Her intrigue grew stronger when she returned to the States for the WNBA campaign with the Los Angeles Sparks, and teammate and Player Executive Committee-member Lexie Brown filled her in even further on Athletes Unlimited.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I would love to be a part of this,'” Canada said.
Thus, Canada’s agent got in touch with AU director of sport (basketball) Ilene Hauser, a meeting ensued, and fast forward to now, both the fifth-year pro and second-year league are benefitting from one another.
“I love being here, I love the experience so far,” Canada said. “All the girls have been super welcoming, and super nice. And even the staff and everybody that’s involved in AU, it’s just been a great time so far.”
Canada scored 21 points in her league debut to lead Team Cloud to a 78-72 win over Team Cole on opening night, and earned a pair of game honors in her first two games, both as the No. 2 MVP. She finished her first week 13th overall on the leaderboard, with 938 points.
That first-week performance came as no surprise to captain Odyssey Sims, who was quick to draft Canada first for her Week 2 roster.
“Great player, crafty … somebody that likes to play fast like I do, will get down and guard anybody you need her to – her presence is always felt,” Sims said. “I was gonna pick her last week but … she was taken. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I was hoping she wouldn’t get picked and she didn’t so … I’m excited. Definitely excited to play with her this week.”
For Canada, it’s just the beginning.
Everything that I thought it would be is exactly what it is, and even more than I expected to be honest - I love that about AU.Jordin Canada
After a few stints overseas, Canada wasn’t a fan of the travel and knew she wanted to spend an entire year in the States. She had already decided she was going to take a break.
Athletes Unlimited simply became the perfect elixir to satisfy her offseason crave for a basketball court and decent competition.
Considering the format, and the opportunity to play against and alongside different players every week, Canada sees the league as an alternate way to develop her game than playing overseas or in the WNBA. It’s not as if Canada isn’t confident in her game or she’s forgotten how to shoot the ball, her numbers speak for themselves, she just knows there’s always room for improvement.
“You can always get better, and I think here AU has done a great job of having skill development coaches to help us out with not just only playing, but working on our game. For me, I always still want to perfect my game,” Canada said. “I know I can shoot the ball, but it’s just learning how to take the right shots at the right moments and being confident in that, and I think AU has definitely helped me with that.”
Though her fans might not believe it based on her style of play, whether she’s locking down opponents or stroking mid-range jumpers with relative ease, Canada admits she’s a bit of an introvert. She’s hoping AU will help rekindle the confidence and swagger she once displayed during her college days at UCLA, and possibly grow out of the timid professional she’s become.
“I think sometimes you kind of get lost when you become a professional athlete, you kind of think of it as a job, although you still love the game,” Canada said. “It becomes super serious sometimes and you kind of lose that aspect of the love that you have for it when you were a kid and you were playing in AAU. This is the feeling I get when I’m playing in AU is that I feel like I’m back in AAU, like when I was a kid and I’m playing, having a good time.”
The empowerment of 43 other women has been the common theme since the league’s inception. It’s an intangible that’s encapsulated Canada since arriving in Dallas, and allowed her to step outside her comfort zone while establishing friendships with people she might not have even spoke to in the WNBA, or ladies she wouldn’t have met otherwise.
“And I think in the years to come, it’ll grow and I think a lot more people will want to be involved, which will make it even better,” Canada said. “It’s a different dynamic. I love how they have the dynamic of the league where every week you’re playing with different people. I think that’s a cool idea, something that I’ve never seen before, so it’s pretty interesting.”
It’s been a while since the Los Angeles Sparks have had a chance to boast a true hometown hero, the most notable probably former WNBA great Lisa Leslie, who was born in Compton.
Given her impeccable credentials, her charismatic personality and her infectious charm, Canada is well on her way to becoming Los Angeles’ next great hometown hero.
Canada was born in Los Angeles, was a McDonald’s All-American after starring at Windward High School and was a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at UCLA.
After starting her career in Seattle, and winning a pair of championships alongside the great Sue Bird with the Storm, Canada is approaching her second season with her hometown Sparks.
And there’s much more than wanting to bring a championship back to Los Angeles.
Which is why she’s playing for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, which she’s been working with the past couple of months, hoping to grow a relationship with it while giving back to the same community where she fell in love in basketball.
“Just being able to give back to children and families who are not as fortunate as I am … I think it’s a great opportunity for me to do something different and to give back to the families and children who are severely ill and need a lot of help.” Canada said. “I think Ronald McDonald is doing an excellent job of providing housing and food and everything that they need for families to stay there cost free, I think that’s amazing. And so that’s something that I want to be a part of.”
It’s also provided yet another bonding moment with her new AU family, as she’s come to learn about other players the charities they’re playing for, and the causes that have touched their hearts.
“Being able to just meet people and then also getting (to) just hear stories about why they decided to play,” Canada said. “I think that’s a great thing as well.
“Everything that I thought it would be is exactly what it is, and even more than I expected to be honest – I love that about AU.”
W.G. Ramirez is a 35-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a correspondent for Athletes Unlimited. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez
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