Former Kalamalka Lakers standout Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (with ball) is one of 20 players named to the Canadian women’s Olympic basketball team’s virtual training camp in preparation for the 2021 Tokyo Games. (File photo)

Former Kalamalka Lakers standout Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (with ball) is one of 20 players named to the Canadian women’s Olympic basketball team’s virtual training camp in preparation for the 2021 Tokyo Games. (File photo)

North Okanagan basketball star invited to Canadian women’s Olympic camp

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe helped Canada place 7th at 2016 Rio Olympics

Canada Basketball announced the 20 athletes invited to attend a Senior Women’s National Team virtual training camp this week.

Former Kalamalka Secondary Lakers standout Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe is on the list released Feb. 1.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the team was last together just over a year ago in Ostend, Belgium, where they swept their group at the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgium with a 3-0 record to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. ‍Canada has successfully qualified for three consecutive Olympic Games, dating back to London 2012.

“There have been tremendous individual and collective efforts made by both our athletes and staff, as they continue to diligently work together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Women’s High Performance director Denise Dignard.

Raincock-Ekunwe was part of the Canadian team that finished seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was on the squad that helped Canada qualify for the 2021 Games in Tokyo, originally scheduled for 2020 but cancelled due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 hasn’t prevented athletes from connecting virtually with coaches and staff to continue their development and training over the course of the past 12 months. This camp will be yet another important opportunity for the team to connect, build chemistry and continue preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“I’m so excited to get together with our players and staff this week,” said Canadian head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “We have an incredible group of people on this team who have displayed genuine dedication and commitment to our teams’ growth and improvement during this time.

“We’ve had to take a different approach to our Olympic preparation process than we had originally anticipated but I know our hard work is going to pay off.”

Raincock-Ekunwe, who helped the Lakers win the B.C. High School Girls AA basketball title in 2009, is taking a second year off from the WNBA’s New York Liberty to focus on helping Canada at the Olympics. She is currently playing professionally in Europe.

The Tokyo 2020 Women’s Basketball Tournament is scheduled for July 26-Aug. 8, 2021. Canada is one of 12 qualified teams that will be divided into three groups of four teams each. The Group Phase will be played in a round-robin format, with each team playing the other teams in the group once. The teams placed first and second in each group and the two best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase.

The draw for the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Basketball Tournament is set for Tuesday, Feb. 2 in Mies, Switzerland.

Prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Canada will also participate in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021 from June 11-19, 2021. This event is one of four Women’s Continental Cups, which will qualify 16 teams for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournaments from Feb. 6-14, 2022. The top three teams from each Qualifying Tournament will advance to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, Australia.

Canada’s Senior Women’s National Team remains ranked fourth in the FIBA World Ranking Women, presented by Nike.

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roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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