(Toronto, ON) The second edition of Globl Jam Under-23 tournament got underway on Wednesday and is once again bringing marquee talent to the Mattamy Athletic Centre for fans to see.
While the Canadian teams lack top-level talents the likes of Leonard Miller and Aaliyah Edwards from 2022, both the men’s and women’s squads are bringing a renewed focus on depth as they look to take down the tournament favourites Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats, who are the representatives for the USA in this tournament. While Thursday will host both clashes between Canada and USA, both made statements in their opening games.
Canada (U23 Women) vs. BAL Select
Canada’s U23 women’s team opened the tournament with an emphatic 98-42 victory over the BAL Select team.
“It was great (to get the win),” said Canada’s head coach, Christa Eniojukan. “We’ve been in a pretty long training camp for a couple of weeks now, and to be able to actually play a real game and compete in front of a crowd was really exciting.”
BAL Select came into the tournament as one of the sides with the most unknowns, and they struggled to keep pace with Canada’s varied offense as Canada jumped out to a 25-6 lead after one quarter, led by Wake Forest forward Niyah Becker, who led all scorers with 17 points, six rebounds, and two blocks.
BAL Select responded briefly in the second quarter behind 14 points from Jane Asinde and 10 points from Yara Hussein, but with Canada shooting 43 per cent from three-point range, a comeback was never close to materializing.
“We’re trying to figure out where our strengths are,” said Eniojukan. “We have a lot of weapons from three and from the inside, and when we play inside out, we’re pretty unstoppable. “
Eniojukan praised the team’s ability to buy into an offensive structure quickly after the game, as Canada received contributions from throughout the roster with 13 points from Sarah Te-Biasu, 12 points from Keishana Washington and 11 points from Brynn Masikewich and Shayeann Day-Wilson.
The massive win positions Canada for the highly anticipated second night, where they’ll take on the Louisville Cardinals, who are representing the USA in the tournament and had a similarly impressive showing in their first game with a 78-55 win over Puerto Rico. Despite the marquee nature of the match-up, Eniojukan says they will be preparing for Louisville the same way they would for any opponent.
Niyah Becker (#14) scored a game-high 17 points with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks
WOMEN: CAN vs. BAL Selects boxscore click HERE.
Canada (U23 men) vs. BAL Select
It was a shaky start for the Canadian men as BAL Select went toe-to-toe with the host nation in the first quarter with Jean Jacques Boissy leading all scorers with 19 points. Canada responded with a second quarter that saw them hold BAL Select to 13 points, while scoring 28 of their own.
“We could have gotten down on ourselves…but we didn’t,” said Thomas Kennedy. “We found the margin we were expecting and wanted…we just have to practice and keep our foot on the gas pedal.”
Kennedy led the Canadians playing a role similar to his time in Windsor, directing defensive assignments and kick-starting fast breaks with well-timed passes. He also had 15 points and five rebounds to complement Elijah Mahi’s 17 points and six rebounds. Thomas says the team jokingly calls him their “veteran” as it’s his second stint with the Globl Jam squad, but said this team was distinctly unique from the talent-laden squad from 2022.
“Our biggest thing is strength in numbers, we had a really talented team last year, but this year we’ve really locked into the fact that we’re not going to beat teams one-on-one, we’re going to beat teams five-on-five,” said Kennedy.
The Canadian men’s team will now also look forward to a match-up with USA representatives, the Kentucky Wildcats. The game is one of the most anticipated of the tournament and is set to take place in front of a sold-out crowd, which will include a large contingent of Kentucky fans who traveled with the team to the event.
“Everyone can say ‘oh it’s another game’, but obviously, there’s going to be more around it,” said Kennedy. “But at the same time, we want the same result. We’re going to come out, and we’re going to perform in front of Canadian fans. After we lock into form tomorrow morning, we’ll be ready for that.”
Elijah Mahi (#5) 17 points 6 rebounds Niyah Becker 17 rebounds 6 points Thomas Kennedy 15 points
MEN: CAN vs. BAL Selects boxscore click HERE.