Canadians in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Tournament, Part 1

With COVID-19 cancelling the 2020 Women’s NCAA Tournament, it has been two full years since we last saw collegiate women’s basketball on the largest stage. This year the madness returns with more Canadian content than ever before, and so in part one of this two-part story, we will take a look at some of the women from north of the border who will make the trip to San Antonio.

Rebecca Demeke G 6’0″- #1 NC State 

Freshman Rebecca Demeke has progressed nicely in her first year at NC State, and has made 13 appearances for the powerhouse team this season. On a team with this much talent, it’s rare for a freshman to see so much of the court, but Demeke has made a couple of starts this year and averages around 10 minutes-per-night. Demeke is a shooter in its purest sense, and can prove valuable on the defensive end as well when given the chance. The Wolfpack will enter the tournament as one of the key favourites, and it’s likely that Demeke will feature at some point during what they hope to be a long run.  

Laeticia Amihere F 6’4″ – #1 South Carolina 

Laeticia Amihere is in her sophomore season at South Carolina, and has carved out a nice role for herself this year. The Mississauga native is averaging 17.4 minutes-per-night, contributing with 6.2 PPG and 4.5 RPG in the process. She’s scored in double digits numerous times this season, and will be one of their key bench pieces for their run through March, which given the talent on this team, could easily be a run that goes all the way to the National Championship. 

Merissah Russell G 5’11”- #2 Louisville 

Merissah Russell has made the most of her opportunities in her freshman year at Louisville. The 5’11 guard has made 18 appearances this season, and plays efficient, smart basketball whenever she’s on the floor. Before coming to Louisville, Russell was ranked as the 29th best guard (Capital Courts Academy) by ESPNW, and so the talent is there, she just has to stay the course and the minutes will come. The tournament experience she receives this year will be crucial considering it’s only her first year, and even more so because the Cardinals look primed to make a serious run.

Shaina Pellington G 5’8″ – #3 Arizona

Shaina Pellington had to sit out last season as per NCAA transfer rules after moving from her previous school Oklahoma. Despite the layoff, she’s coming back firing on all cylinders this season, and has been an important piece for the Wildcats throughout their outstanding campaign. Pellington is averaging 5.8 PPG and 1.9 RPG off of the bench, and will be a valuable piece during the tournament for a team that is looking to dance its way into the Final Four. 

Kiandra Browne F 6’2″ – #4 Indiana 

The Indiana Hoosiers have had a very good season to this point, and have positioned themselves fairly nicely heading into the tournament. Canadian freshman Kiandra Browne has gotten a few opportunities this season for the Hoosiers, and she’s stepped up above her role on numerous occasions. Earlier this season she had an impressive 12-point 10-rebound performance against Nebraska, proving just how valuable she can be when given the opportunity. We may see a bit of Browne in the tournament at some point, but for the most part, the first-year will be learning from the experience and taking in as much as possible while Indiana tries to make a deep run. 

Mael Gilles F 6’1″ – #6 Rutgers

Senior Mael Gilles has started in every game for the Scarlet Knights so far this season, which comes as no surprise. Gilles is one of the leaders on this team both on and off of the court, and she’ll be looking to try and get them over the hump in their tricky first round matchup against BYU. Gilles averages 8.1 PPG and 4.3 RPG on 43.5% shooting, and her stats are up this year almost across the board. In this, her senior run, Gilles will get the chance to end her career the right way, under the bright lights in San Antonio. 

Ahriahna Grizzle G 5’9″ – #7 Alabama

Sophomore Ahriahna Grizzle has played sporadically with the Crimson Tide this season. COVID has meant that it’s been a weird year for everyone involved, and the Ontario native is remaining ready despite inconsistent playing time. Grizzle has appeared in 6 games this season, in mostly short stints, and hasn’t had a large chance to prove herself. Still though, the Crimson Tide got a nice win in the SEC Tournament last week and will be looking to dance into the second weekend and beyond, which would be a great experience for Grizzle. 

Makayla Ennis G/F 6’0″ – #7 Virginia Tech

Makayla Ennis has had an inconsistent amount of playing time this season, but has had several nights on the year where she’s played 15+ minutes and been a key contributor. She pitched in with a 12-point performance earlier in the year, and her numbers across the board are increased from her first year with only a few extra appearances. Heading into the tournament, it will be interesting to see if Ennis fits into the game plan as the Hokies prepare for a tough first round against Marquette.  

Micah Dennis G 5’9″ – #8 Oklahoma State 

Micah Dennis has come off of the bench this season for Oklahoma State, who is heading into the tournament on the heels of a tough loss against West Virginia. Dennis played 11 and 6 minutes respectively in the Cowgirls two Big 12 tournament games, and so she’ll likely factor into their first-round game against Wake Forest at some point. Dennis is a shifty guard that can shoot and get hot quickly, and will certainly be ready this weekend when her name gets called.

Jessica Clarke C 6’3″ – #9 Washington State 

In what has been a bit of an up-and-down season for the Cougars, freshman centre Jessica Clarke has been given a few chances to show she belongs. For the most part she has been at the end of the rotation, but the young Canadian has earned her spot on the roster, and will see her role continue to grow as she gains experience with the program. In the only game she was given significant minutes in this season, she scored 11 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, proving that the talent is there. She may not see much action in the tournament, but Clarke is poised to become a difference maker in the near future. 

Mackenzie Trpcic G 5’7″ – #12 UC Davis 

The first of two Canadians on the UC Davis Aggies, Hamilton’s Mackenzie Trpcic is an extremely important piece for this team. The senior is averaging 9.3 PPG alongside 4.3 RPG and 5.3 APG. She’s played at least 28 minutes in every single game this season, and has on several occasions played the entire 40. Her importance to this team is larger than words, and she will be a key factor in whether or not the Aggies can pull a 5-12 upset against Missouri State. 

Sage Stobbart F/C 6’3″ – #12 UC Davis 

The next member of the Canadian 2-headed monster on UC Davis is junior forward Sage Stobbart. Much like Trpcic, Stobbart has started every single game this season for the Aggies, and is one of the on-and-off-court leaders. Sage is averaging an impressive 10.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG this season, and is the kind of player that can dominate down low at will when she’s on her game. She’ll be an extremely key piece for the Aggies in their attempt to go dancing into the second weekend in San Antonio. 

Keishana Washington G 5’7″ – #14 Drexel

The Drexel Dragons will be heavy underdogs in this year’s tournament, but guard Keishana Washington will be doing her part to try and do the improbable. Washington is one of the most if not the most important players on this Dragons team, and her numbers speak for themselves. Washington averages 15.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG for Drexel, shooting over 41% from the field. She had an insane 35-point performance against James Madison earlier in the year, and the outstanding Canadian will have to do the same this weekend for Drexel to survive and advance.

Written by Kyle Oliveira

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