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After historic freshman season, Day-Wilson is ready for big summer with Team Canada

Shy Day-Wilson not only has next, she has next and now and whatever else she’s got her mind on. The five-foot-tall Canadian point guard, who honed her game at the Falstaff Community Center, made more than a splash in her first season in the NCAA. After leading Duke in points, assists, field goals, free throws and minutes attempted this season, Day-Wilson was recognized as ACC Freshman of the Year to cap off her incredible season with the Blue Devils.

Day-Wilson came to Duke after a phenomenal performance with the U19 women’s national team, where she averaged 18.1 points (second-best in the tournament), 5.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in seven games. It’s been a tumultuous start to her NCAA career, after a lost year of high school prom because of the pandemic and a late transfer from Syracuse University to Duke. It didn’t matter, nor was it Phase Day-Wilson running from vault to floor with the Blue Devils.

“It was just a surprise to me, and it wasn’t really a surprise either, almost because I had this goal that I wanted to win Rookie of the Year,” she said. “Of course I wanted to go to the tournament, but I achieved one of my goals and I achieved that [NCAA] Tournament is definitely still on my list. But I’ve basically achieved everything I set out to achieve so far, so I’m really proud of myself.”

Day-Wilson finished the season averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 assists as the team-best, along with 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, numbers that almost certainly would have been higher had they started the entire season would have. Day-Wilson started the final 17 games of the season after her outstanding play made it all but impossible to keep her off the starting blocks.

This has become a recurring trend in Day-Wilson’s young basketball history. After starting to play basketball at the Falstaff Community Center, Day-Wilson quickly improved to where she was playing with the boys’ teams at the age of eight. Despite being undersized and often the youngest player on the field, Day-Wilson continued to shine. Her game frustrated parents who were upset that a girl was overplaying and earning more minutes than their sons.

Patrick Shaw works at Falstaff and is Day-Wilson’s mentor and one of her biggest supporters. He recognized not only the talent but also the relentless drive and will to compete in Day-Wilson from the start. After struggling to find suitable competition for Day-Wilson to challenge her game, Shaw established an all-girls AAU program here in Toronto, and soon Day-Wilson and her teammates traveled to the United States, where they competed against the best and perhaps most important competition was playing in front of the right people.

Despite the success she had on the court, Day-Wilson was still shocked when she received her first scholarship offer in seventh grade. That’s when she realized she had a chance to make basketball more than just the sport she loved.

“I looked and I didn’t know anything about going to school like basketball, nothing,” she said. “So I got my first offers and I did my research and it was like, ‘Oh damn, this is really a big time,’ you know?”

Day-Wilson was willing to do whatever it took to ensure she would reach the highest possible level in basketball. She hasn’t slowed down since.

Although Day-Wilson first wore the red and white to play for Canada at U19 last summer, next up is the GLOBL JAM International Showcase and Tournament, hosted by Canada Basketball in Toronto this July.

The event will bring together the world’s best young talents to compete against each other for a week, beginning July 5 in Toronto.

You could say Day-Wilson is looking forward to it.

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It’s crazy for me because I haven’t played at home in two or three years. Everyone just saw me play on TV and stuff. I mean, they could always come to Duke [to see me play]but I will play at home again. [There’s] No better feeling playing in front of your people. That sounds really good. And I think the competition will definitely be good. Well, I mean, it just looks good all around.”

Day-Wilson enjoyed her time representing Canada in Hungary with the U19s last August.

“Hungary was really fun,” she said. “I’ve met some good friends and met some people I’m talking to now. It’s just a good experience.”

Though her own basketball career is just beginning, Day-Wilson appreciates how former and current Canadian basketball players try to ensure that today’s young talents go further than they do. She sees GLOBL Jam as another step Canada Basketball is taking to bring future generations on the road to success.

“It’s really good, for example, if you want to go international and [play] Overseas, it’s a really good opportunity [to be seen],” she said. “And I think having it in Canada is just a really, really good opportunity for players [in Canada] who don’t have to travel [to have their games be seen].”

Day-Wilson recently went viral on social media after video clips of her playing one-on-one with Drake on the basketball court at his Toronto home were posted to Instagram. Most 18-year-olds would be beside themselves at the opportunity. However, Day-Wilson is not like most 18-year-olds. Cool as ever, she explained how the rapper invited her to play his court when she returned to Toronto to train after her freshman year. Day-Wilson appreciates the attention and respect Drake brings to women’s football and his support for Canada’s Hoopers.

While undeterred by Drake’s celebrity status on the pitch, where everything was business as usual, Day-Wilson was most impressed with the pitch itself.

“He says, ‘I have space in my house [to play one-on-one] like it was like a space outside and he had his own frigging yard instead,” she said, laughing.

“I’m not going to lie to you, to be honest, I was more like stargazing for being out of the house, you know what I mean?” She continued.

Though Day-Wilson may be undersized on the pitch, her huge personality shines at all times. A light-hearted conversationalist, Day-Wilson’s wits are as subtle as her playing is special. She knows that some people who watch her play focus on her intensity or competitiveness and might confuse these elements of her game with her personality, and she wants to make them clear.

“You know, people look at me, like obviously on the court, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s cocky or whatever,'” Day-Wilson said. “It’s just, no, I’m in that mode [while competing]. Off the field I love people you know?”

Watching Day-Wilson’s game means loving her too.

This story was first published by Canada Basketball.

https://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/article/after-historic-freshman-season-day-wilson-is-ready-for-big-summer-with-team-canada/ After historic freshman season, Day-Wilson is ready for big summer with Team Canada

Linh

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