Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nurse, Achonwa Lead Women's Basketball Squad for Pan American Games

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nurse, Achonwa Lead Women's Basketball Squad for Pan American Games

Article excerpt

Nurse, Achonwa lead women's basketball squad

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TORONTO - If there were any concerns about Natalie Achonwa being back at full strength for the Pan American Games and Olympic qualifying, the 22-year-old has answered them with her excellent WNBA debut.

The six-foot-four centre from Guelph, Ont., was named to Canada's Pan Am Games women's basketball roster Monday a little over a year after a torn ACL ended her superb NCAA career.

"Nat, she's such a competitor, and what you see in practice one day can be completely different as soon as the lights come on and the ball gets tossed up, and it's game-time, because she is just such an intelligent player," said head coach Lisa Thomaidis.

Achonwa will be joined by NCAA champion Kia Nurse, plus Miranda Ayim of London, Ont., Nirra Fields of Lachine, Que., Kim Gaucher of Mission, B.C., Miah-Marie Langlois of Windsor, Ont., Lizanne Murphy of Beaconsfield, Que., Katherine and Michelle Plouffe of Edmonton, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe of Toronto, Tamara Tatham of Brampton, Ont., and Shona Thorburn of Hamilton on the 12-man roster.

Achonwa helped Notre Dame to last year's Final Four before suffering a torn ACL in what turned out to be her last game for the Fighting Irish. She was sidelined for the world championships last summer, where the Canadians finished fifth -- their best result in almost 30 years.

She attended a national team camp last month, where Thomaidis said Achonwa's improvement even over a few days was noticeable. She's since been averaging 10.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a game with the Indiana Fever, the team that selected her ninth overall in the WNBA draft.

"She was a bit rusty (at camp) because that was the first touch of a ball and step on a court in a five-on-five situation in basically over a year, so we knew she was going to keep getting better and better," Thomaidis said. "She's certainly shown that with her play with Indiana; she's having a fantastic season and that's really not too surprising. …

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