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Canada's Amihere 'excited' for WNBA draft, opportunity to grow on pro level


The moment is starting to feel all the more real for Laeticia Amihere.

The Mississauga, Ont., native recently completed her final season with NCAA powerhouse South Carolina Gamecocks and entered her name on Tuesday for the upcoming WNBA draft.

"I think it hit me when I started packing up my room," she told The Canadian Press. "And I remember just looking at how empty my walls were and I don't remember seeing my room look like that since freshman year since I first moved in.

"It's just emotions all over, just kind of trying to prepare myself for the next level, but also kind of just soak in every moment that I have here with my teammates and my friends and kind of everybody that I kind of feel the relationship with in the past four years."

The six-foot-four forward says she has been invited to New York for Monday's draft and plans to attend alongside her parents, Georgette and Anthony, and brother Benson.

" … I'm just gonna be excited and waiting to hear my name," she said. "It's gonna be a lot of anticipation."

The opportunity to build on her potential and show more of her game also excites her.

"I think just showing a little bit more of my bag … I haven't been able to show more of my offensive tools at South Carolina," she said. "So I'm just excited to show a little bit more of that, just, you know, my mid-range game and being able to score on three levels."

Amihere averaged a career-best 7.1 points, along with 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 15.9 minutes across 36 games this season. She came off the bench for a stacked South Carolina squad that won the national title in 2022 and lost in the Final Four this year.

Although her numbers don't jump out at people, Amihere's impact goes beyond the box score.

"A few people that we've spoken with or have heard, I think there's potential she falls in the back end of the first round," Canadian women's senior national team assistant coach Steve Baur told The Canadian Press. "I think there is some excitement and genuine interest (of her) in the league.

"Both athletic tools she has to offer right now, but also the potential of her growth once she gets into the league."

Baur also referred back to the 21-year-old's showing with Canada at the Tokyo Olympics.

"She changed some of the games for us with her ability to just impact the entire way we were playing defensively," Baur said. "We found ourselves in a hole a couple of times in the Olympics and Laeticia would lead a large comeback or run for us to put us back in these games.

"So that was, I think, a big confidence builder for her and the role for us on the Olympic levels. You come in, still a teenage college student at that stage, and can impact things on the international level."

Amihere has long been a part of the national program. She played for the under-16 team that won gold at the 2015 FIBA Americas Cup, competed with the U17 team at the 2016 FIBA World Cup, and Canada's bronze-medal winning U19 team at the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

With the senior team, she competed at the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament, 2021 FIBA AmeriCup and the 2022 FIBA World Cup. Being around other professionals helped her develop pro habits years before declaring for the WNBA draft.

"You're young, and you're just kind of used to, you know, strolling into practice and 'All right, I got young legs, I don't really need to warm up, let's go 5-on-5,' but you learn pro habits," she said.

"Obviously longevity is something that is more important than your skill, because if you can't play for a long time, you're not serving your team well. So, … coming early, watching film, nutrition, all those different things, I feel like I was able to learn at a very young age and that's something I've carried with me and that will definitely translate in the pro level as well."

Aside from her leadership skills, versatility, defensive prowess and ability to create for others on offence, it's her winning mentality that she would most like to bring to whichever team drafts her.

"We were in an environment of winners," Amihere said of her time at South Carolina. "We had the top coach (Dawn Staley), she was very competitive. We had all my teammates, (who) just their will to win was so high and no matter where I'm drafted, I'll carry that with me because it's very rare."

"Obviously in the WNBA, you don't have teams that go undefeated, you don't have teams that only lose nine games in four years, so it's gonna be a different approach for me to come into a team that, you know, is not used to not losing."


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2023.