Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and the rest of Team Canada joined family and friends at an Edmonton pub to celebrate their gold medal in the FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championships Sunday night.
After that, it was pack your bags, head your separate ways and see you next spring for training camp.
“I am off to Germany at the end of the month to start my third professional season with TSV 1880 Wasserburg,” Raincock-Ekunwe told The Morning Star.
Canada dispatched Cuba 82-66 in the FIBA Americans final at the raucus Saville Community Sports Centre. Raincock-Ekunwe, a Kalamalka Laker grad, sank a pair of free throws.
“To play on home soil definitely gave us a competitive edge,” said Raincock-Ekunwe. “The fans in Edmonton were amazing and we could really feel the support.”
A 6-foot-2, 165-pound power forward who enjoyed four stellar seasons at SFU, Raincock-Ekunwe really stepped it up as Canada bounced Brazil 83-66 in the semifinals. Nayo came off the bench and rang up a game-high 18 points.
Raincock-Ekunwe had just 3:02 of playing time in the first half and only 16:12 overall, but she was key in helping Canada open up a double-digit lead in the third quarter.
“The strength of the team is definitely the cohesion and depth. There is a mix of old and young, but everyone gets along really well. Our coach, Lisa Thomaidis, often says it is a team of ‘12 starters.’ Anyone can come off the bench and contribute.”
Canadian veteran Kim Gaucher, 30, told the Edmonton media: “I remember Nayo coming into training camp three or four years ago and, I mean, she couldn’t run our offence at all. She just looked lost out there. You look at her (against Brazil), confident and aggressive. She’s one of the prettiest basketball players to watch. Her game is so smooth, she doesn’t even realize it.”
Raincock-Ekunwe, who finished with 42 points in the tournament, set a personal best against Brazil.
“I learn something new from every game I play with the national team. Both by watching my teammates and competing on the floor. In the semifinal game, I scored 18 points. That is the most points I’ve ever scored with this team, so it was great to show that I can compete and contribute at this level.”
The Canadian women’s team was coming off a fifth-place finish at the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Turkey – their best finish in almost 30 years.
“It was an incredible experience to come on to this team and experience this kind of success. I had tried out for the team the two previous summers and never made the final cut. So to be a part of the senior womens team and help the team qualify for the 2016 Olympics (in Brazil) is amazing.”
Raincock-Ekunwe helps her mom, Denny, run some farms in Oliver whenever home.
Raincock-Ekunwe ended a four-year career at SFU as an NCAA II All-American after finishing the season first in field goal percentage (65.3), fourth in rebounding (12.4 per game) and third in double-doubles (22).