Canadians to watch in the WNBA in 2023
The trio of Kia Nurse, Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton have led the way as the Canadian representation in the WNBA the last few years.
However, Laeticia Amihere joins that contingent as the fourth Canadian on a WNBA roster this season after being selected eighth overall in the 2023 draft by the Atlanta Dream.
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From Amihere looking to impress as a rookie, to Nurse returning to full health, here is where to find the four WNBA-based Canadians this season.
Kia Nurse – Seattle Storm
Nurse missed the entire 2022 WNBA season recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee. She sustained the injury during the 2021 playoffs in Game 4 of the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces.
She returned to play in the 2022 FIBA World Cup in the fall, averaging 11 points and 2.4 rebounds as Canada finished fourth.
In her last full WNBA season in 2021 with the Phoenix Mercury, she averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists and started all 32 games she appeared in.
The Hamilton, Ont., product was selected 10th overall by the New York Liberty in 2018 after playing four years in the NCAA at UConn. In 2019, she was a WNBA All-Star starter.
Signing a two-year deal with the Storm as a free agent during the off-season, Nurse joins a team in a transitional phase after losing Breanna Stewart (free agency) and Sue Bird (retirement). After missing a full season, playing in Seattle is a good opportunity for Nurse to play in a big role with significant minutes.
Bridget Carleton – Minnesota Lynx
Carleton impressed at the 2022 FIBA World Cup with Canada, making the All-Tournament First Team averaging 12.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, including a 27-point performance in the group stage against Mali.
In the WNBA last season, the Chatham, Ont., product averaged 4.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in 36 games as the Lynx struggled last season, finishing just outside the playoffs in ninth.
Averaging 16.8 minutes in 2022, the 25-year-old has become a reliable option off the bench for the Lynx but head coach Cheryl Reeve believes Carleton is ready for more.
“Whatever we ask for from Bridget, she does,” said Reeve at the WNBA preseason game in Toronto. “And so we figure we keep asking for things and she just keeps raising her game.
“That’s exactly the next step, gaining that confidence. You might be coming off the bench but the expectation for you to perform when you’re in there, you’re not deferring all the time. Kind of take the bull by the horns and establish an identity offensively.
“So that’s been her focus, I have noticed it, not thinking twice about whether she should shoot, she knows that I want her to shoot. I told her before, we joked last season, ‘pretend like you’re in Canada for Canada Basketball because you have to do great things for them.’ I think she is ready for that next step.”
Laeticia Amihere – Atlanta Dream
Amihere leveraged a strong senior season at South Carolina into being selected eighth overall by the Dream at the 2023 draft.
In her final season at South Carolina, she averaged a career-high 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists. She helped the Gamecocks to a perfect season until losing in the Final Four to Iowa. Amihere became a staple in the rotation under head coach Dawn Staley, helping them win a national title in 2021-22.
At the FIBA World Cup, the 23-year-old averaged 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds for Canada.
The Dream are a team on the upswing and Amihere joins a core that includes 2022 No. 1 overall pick and reigning rookie of the year winner Rhyne Howard, 2021 third-overall pick Aari McDonald and off-season acquisition Allisha Gray.
Natalie Achonwa – Minnesota Lynx
The 30-year-old veteran appeared in 22 games last season with the Lynx, her second with the team. She averaged 15.1 minutes and 5.3 points with 4.1 rebounds.
At the FIBA World Cup, Achonwa averaged 7.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists as she helped Canada finish fourth.
The 30-year-old started her WNBA career in Indiana after being selected ninth overall by the Fever in 2014 but did not debut until 2015 due to a knee injury.
Achonwa is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to her son in April.