Kayla Alexander says the Canadian women’s basketball team is ready for an Olympic challenge

Kayla Alexander drove back to the gym, reeling from losing to Japan, 86-82, in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Hungary in February.

She was sure her Canadian women’s basketball team was bounced from Olympic contention.

The veteran forward from Milton, Ont., was down for the count before Spain took on 19th-ranked tournament host Hungary — the Spanish women were Canada’s last hope at going to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“In my head, it was over with because it was out of our hands,” Alexander told CBC Sports.

Alexander said she refused to watch the Spain-Hungary game and was speaking with her parents to try to come to terms with not being able to represent her country at the highest level.

As she was in the gym, she heard the final buzzer go off. She said she noticed a Hungarian fan walk by her, not in good spirits. Alexander finally decided to look at the scoreboard.

That’s when she started crying.

In a dramatic 22-point comeback, Spain upset Hungary 73-72, qualifying Canada for Paris 2024.

With less than 50 days until the Olympic cauldron is lit in the French capital, Alexander said she’s going to Paris with a mentality of determining her own fate this time around.

“I want us to be the people who are in charge of our destiny,” she said. 

“We have too much talent.”

WATCH | Alexander is ‘highly motivated’ for Olympics:

Canadian basketball star Kayla Alexander ‘highly motivated’ for Olympics

The forward from Milton, Ont., expressed how the Olympic qualifier has influenced her mindset going into Paris.

Alexander and her Canadian teammate, Shay Colley, are coming off a French professional basketball league season with Tango Bourges Basket where they finished second in the regular season but lost in the first round of the playoffs. However, they ended their pro season with a French Cup title, and Alexander was named the final game’s MVP.

The Olympian is looking to take the winning momentum back to France when the Canadian national team heads to their fourth straight Games.

New leaders, new staff

Alexander said the team has lost some of their past veterans since Tokyo 2020, and will be led by a new coaching staff with Victor Lapena at the helm.

Canada will still have Natalie Achonwa, playing in her fourth Games, and Nirra Fields, going to her third, but the women in red and white will have to count on a new crop of leaders to get to the podium.

Entering her second Summer Games and having 10 years of professional experience under her belt, Alexander is one of them. And while she may not have the same Olympic experience as others on the squad, she said she’s about 15 years older than the youngest on the team.

“I call myself the grandma on the team,” she said.

Alexander said she uses her experience to teach the newer players, pulling from lessons she’s learned and offering as much advice as she can to uplift the group.

Representation in women’s basketball

When she was younger, Alexander said she was just playing for fun, and because there was no local world-class team to look to, she never had professional aspirations until she left Ontario to play at Syracuse University.

But now that the WNBA has announced its expansion to Toronto for the 2026 season, Alexander believes more young Canadian women will have an opportunity to make their dreams come true — just like her.

“It’ll show young girls that anything is possible,” she said. “They’ll have more representation, more women that they can look up to, excelling at a sport that they love.”

Alexander played in the WNBA from the time she was drafted by the San Antonio Stars in 2013 until 2020, including stints with the Indiana Fever, Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx.

Over a decade has passed since she began her professional career, and the winning attitude hasn’t changed. For the games that lie ahead this summer, Alexander is clear about where she wants to be standing in August.

“The mentality and the goal has always been the same,” she said.


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