CORAL GABLES, Fla. — There are some serious complaints being aired by a handful of Miami women’s basketball players. For example, finding good poutine in South Florida isn’t easy. Ketchup-flavoured potato chips aren’t in most stores. And the inability to start a day with coffee from Tim Hortons is a real problem.
These are key issues when almost half of a team’s roster hails from Toronto.
For these Hurricanes — Lemyah Hylton, Lashae Dwyer, Shayeann Day-Wilson and Latasha Lattimore — Thanksgiving is in October, the Raptors are the hometown NBA team and what Floridians call “freezing” is nothing more than a pleasant day outside to them.
Dwyer, Day-Wilson and Lattimore all hail from Toronto; Hylton is from the suburb of Mississauga, about 15 miles (25 kilometres) west of Toronto. The Hurricanes have only 11 players on the roster this season — and having four from Toronto is basically a happy coincidence.
“Honestly, I have no idea how this happened,” Hylton said. “And I think a lot of people thought that we had some kind of plan or some kind of mechanism behind it, but we really didn’t. It just kind of happened and it happened for the right reason.”
Having four international players from basically the same city on a U.S. college team is rare. But having Canadians on basketball rosters in the U.S. right now is increasingly common.
And basketball is booming right now north of the border. There were a record 26 Canadians on opening night rosters in the NBA this week, the reigning men’s college player of the year — Purdue’s Zach Edey — is from Toronto, Canada’s men’s program will play in the Paris Games next summer to end a 24-year Olympic drought and a record 53 Canadians were part of last season’s NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments. Jamal Murray is the point guard for the NBA champion Denver Nuggets; he’s from Kitchener, about 90 minutes west of Toronto. All-NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’s another Toronto guy.
Yes, hockey is still the official winter sport of Canada. But basketball — founded by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith — is thriving, and seems to only be getting better.
“I feel like Canada is still underrated when it comes to basketball,” Lattimore said. “There’s so much talent, amazing talent in Toronto right now and Canada in general. I guess now American schools see a lot of Canadians coming over, so they’re going to see if there’s more talent. And there’s a lot more talent, a lot more exposure, a lot more AAU teams and all that is part of it.”
All four of the Canadian Hurricanes took different paths to Coral Gables. Dwyer is the only one of the four who signed with the Hurricanes coming out of high school. Day-Wilson spent the last two years at Duke, the first of those as the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year as selected by coaches and then starting 29 games last season. Lattimore is in her second season at Miami after starting college at Texas, and Hylton played last season at Arizona.
“I’m the recruiter,” said Dwyer, who finished high school ball in Tennessee and hasn’t lived in Canada for several years now — but still calls it home. “It’s cool because we can all relate. Me, Tasha and Shaye, we all grew up basically 10 minutes from each other. Just having each other around, it makes you not want to say that you miss home because we have each other.”
They’ve all been opponents in the past, all been teammates as well — and clearly prefer being teammates. And with only 11 players on the roster, odds are high that there’s going to be at least one Canadian on the floor in just about every lineup for a revamped Miami squad that lost three starters from a team that went 22-13 last season.
“We lost a lot but we didn’t lose everything,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “I love what we’re returning and I love what we’ve added.”
Hylton is missing Tim Hortons, the go-to coffee place for many Canadians. Lattimore is craving those ketchup chips. Dwyer and Day-Wilson would love to find a poutine spot.
But for now, they’ll just focus on helping Miami — coming off the first Elite Eight run in the program’s history — get through another difficult schedule, the rigours of ACC play and, they hope, back to the NCAA tournament.
“There’s no better feeling than us ending up at the same school,” Day-Wilson said. “We get the opportunity to represent and show Canadians can hoop, too. We have each other’s back, we’ve known each other for a long time, we’ve been competitors and now we’re on the same team again. It just happened this way and it feels really good.”