A four-year starter at UCLA, Canada is the Pac-12's all-time leader in assists.
There were at least a few Seattle Storm fans with a strong premonition for Jordin Canada’s future. During the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament this winter at KeyArena, Canada was approached by Storm supporters who predicted the Storm would snag her in the upcoming WNBA draft.
They were right.
The Storm selected the former UCLA star with the fifth overall pick in the first round of Thursday’s draft, making her the heir apparent to future Hall-of-Fame point guard Sue Bird.
“I’m so fortunate and so blessed that that came to fruition,” Canada said. “It’s great because I feel like I have a second home up there already.”
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Canada, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Los Angeles, was a four-year starter at UCLA and holds the Pac-12 career record for assists. She loves to pass, and she should get plenty of chances to do just that around an up-and-coming nucleus featuring Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.
“I’m just excited to play with Stewie and Jewell, and to play behind Sue Bird,” she said. “I can’t wait to pass to them.”
A two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year, Canada led the conference in steals in each of the past three seasons and led the Bruins to the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history.
She is the first women’s player in Pac-12 history to log 1,800 points and 700 assists.
In Seattle, Canada will get to learn from one of the best point guards in WNBA history. At 37, Bird is entering her 17th year with the Storm.
Coincidentally, before her senior season at UCLA, Canada had made an effort to reach out to Bird, hoping to pick her brain about leadership, about playing in WNBA, among other topics. With help from UCLA coach Cori Close, Canada and Bird were able to connect via FaceTime.
“She was so welcoming and very nice and sweet, and she gave me a lot of advice,” Canada said.
As a senior this past season, Canada was a team captain and averaged 17.0 points, 7.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals. In 35 games, she shot .435 from the floor (209-for-480) and .804 on free throws (127-of-158).
The Storm had their sights set on Canada all along.
“From where we were drafting, and with all the uncerqtainty that comes with teams (drafting in front of them), it turned out to be a good day for the Storm,” new Seattle coach Dan Hughes said.
Canada’s commitment to defense and her pass-first mentality immediately stood out to Hughes.
“Her quickness with the ball, her ability to see multiple defenders, to me those kind of abilities separated her,” he said. “Her basketball IQ just jumped out at you. And in this league, we needed another penetration point to go with the players we have. We really, really need it.”
Hughes also sees in Canada a player eager to improve, pointing to the increased confidence in her outside shooting. As a freshman at UCLA, Canada made just three three-pointers (on 23 attempts). Her three-point percentage increased every season, from .262 (16-for-61) as a sophomore to .354 (29-of-82) as a junior to .386 (51-of-132) as a senior.
“From all of our intel, this is a player who is committed to moving her skills along,” Hughes said. “You can see it in her perimeter shooting. That mattered to me. It matters that you have someone who wants to soak up the experience and is very driven.”
The Storm had two picks Thursday, and in the third round they selected versatile West Virginia forward Teana Muldrow with the 29th overall pick.
The 6-foot-1 Muldrow, from East Orange, N.J., played every position for West Virginia except point guard, averaging 18.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting .503 from the field as a fifth-year senior.
Hughes praised Muldrow’s defense and rebounding.
“I was impressed watching her presence on both ends and how she impacted games,” he said. “We had her rated 10 or more (draft) spots higher, so we were thrilled to get her where we did.”