For Canada’s Shy Day-Wilson, Success With Duke Basketball Is Just The Beginning


Arrow points up for Canada’s Shy Day-Wilson.

She was named her conference’s rookie of the year while playing for Duke’s prestigious basketball program last year.

The Toronto native then headlined an international U-23 tournament in her hometown over the summer, helping Canada clinch gold.

At five-foot-six and often overlooked — metaphorically and literally — it was, by all accounts, a monumental season for Day-Wilson.

Still, Duke head coach Kara Lawson says his Canadian point guard is only scratching the surface.

« I don’t know if things have clicked for her yet. And what I mean by that is I think there’s still a lot of room to grow, » Lawson said. « I mean that as a compliment to Shy. She’s got a high level of skill, a high level of competitiveness. She really, really wants to win. »

Day-Wilson, 19, led Duke in points per game (12.7) and assists per game (3.7) in his first season with the Blue Devils, but the team fell short of qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Its second season begins Monday with a visit from North Carolina state rival A&T.

Lawson said she expects Day-Wilson to improve simply because she is more settled in life as a student, having adjusted to being away from home and juggling things. harder courses with basketball.

Day-Wilson, however, does not plan to change his mind.

« I’m not really too worried about what I did last year. It’s just that it matters now. Like it’s present. So it’s just that I stay locked up and keep the even hungry, » she said.

Day-Wilson goes up for a layup at the Globl Jam tournament in Toronto. (HO-Globl Jam/The Canadian Press)

teeming with confidence

Day-Wilson first picked up a basketball during an after-school program at the Falstaff Community Center near the tough Jane-and-Finch intersection.

She says it was love on the first dribble. Elsewhere on that pitch, Day-Wilson’s godfather Patrick Shaw and another coach saw that insatiable appetite — and huge potential.

« They just came up to me. They’re like, ‘Man, you get it.’ I ended up staying at the gym until bedtime, you know? And, they just said, like, I had a good work ethic, and I didn’t even have any skills at all. the time, » Day-Wilson recalled.

It was around 6th grade that Day-Wilson first took up competitive play, in which she said she « gave the business » to a group of players who had finished college and were playing professionally abroad.

« And then I had a game where I finished with about 30 points. Also, it came down to the last shot, » she recalled in another instance. « I’m like, yeah, I’m ready for this. It was a great moment. And I was just like, there’s a lot of times in my life where this has happened. So I’ve always been ready . And I think Patrick over the years has groomed me. »

Shaw shared Day-Wilson’s confidence. First, he signed her up in a league with boys, which Day-Wilson says — who started on her team, much to the chagrin of some parents — only increased her belief in her Game.

When that became obsolete, Shaw formed a prep team called Sisters Keeper for Day-Wilson, who also played at Crestwood Preparatory College in Toronto.

« I said basketball changed my life, but [Shaw] also changed my life because he just gave me a chance and believed in me from day one. It’s like there’s no better feeling than someone really trying to push you to your highest potential. And he knew what I was capable of doing and I’m doing it now, » Day-Wilson said.

Rapid rise of the national team

Day-Wilson didn’t make her national team debut until the 2021 Under-19 World Cup, where she came out strong leading the team with 18.1 points and 5.7 assists per game en route to a fifth-place finish.

The outburst quickly earned Day-Wilson a spot in the U-23 squad a year later. Once again she played a key role with 19 points and nine points in the gold medal win over France. It was the first time she had played basketball at home since before the pandemic.

Carly Clarke, head coach and assistant for Canada’s senior under-23 team, called Day-Wilson a « fun » player to work with.

« She’s one of the smallest players on the pitch, but you wouldn’t know that. She’s fierce, she’s creative. And she can go and create something for herself, create someone something for someone. one other and [she] is not afraid of any challenge or confrontation, » Clarke said.

Day-Wilson didn’t make the senior squad in her recent fourth-place finish at the World Cup, but she could now be aiming for the 2024 Paris Olympics after getting her feet wet the past two summers.

« It was a great feeling and I can’t wait to do it again, » she said. « But it just gives people confidence that no matter where you’re from, you can do it from anywhere. »

She says her ultimate basketball goal is to play in the WNBA, « keep doing what I love » and « own a big house one day. »

« She just wants me to be awesome »

For now, at Duke, she plays alongside fellow Canadian Emma Koabel, a freshman from Port Colborne, Ont.

« She’s my little sister, » Day-Wilson said. « I take care of her. It’s kind of like a mentor vibe. … And she’s in the same position I was in last year. So it’s just me giving her some advice, some motivation to keep it going. »

As a point guard, Day-Wilson’s biggest step in his second season will be integrating the many new players Duke has brought in as he seeks to return to March Madness.

So Lawson’s expectations only increased.

« She’s tough on me. She’s really tough on me, but she just wants me to be awesome, » Day-Wilson said.

If her recent trajectory is any indication, Day-Wilson is up for the challenge.

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