Ute pair leads Canadian hoops

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

The Utah Utes’ Canadian duo of Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn was back on the court this summer, and the players honed their basketball skills with the best women’s players in the world. Competing in the Pan American Games for Team Canada, Smith and Thorburn showed why they are heralded by many as the future of not only the Canadian national team, but the U basketball program as well.

Last season, Smith and Thorburn, both first-year players, led the U women’s basketball team to a record setting regular season performance that ended with a conference championship and a loss in the NCAA tournament to national powerhouse Duke.

Team Canada placed fourth at the Pan Am Games, largely as a result of the play of Smith and Thorburn.

The tournament, which establishes a measuring stick for international play, featured many of the teams that are expected to contend for gold at next summer’s Olympic Games.

Finishing in the top four was significant for the group of Canadian women, but it also demonstrated that the team still has its work cut out for it if it hopes to medal in the Olympics.

Smith, a 6-foot-1 forward from British Columbia, played a significant role in the team’s success by starting every game of the tournament. Smith averaged 7.5 points per game and regularly finished each game as the leader in playing time.

Thorburn, a 5-foot-10 guard from Ontario, was limited in her contributions considering that she had not been named as a starter. Still, Thorburn played important minutes during the clutch moments of several games.

Based on the Canadian team’s rotation, it is clear that Thorburn has emerged as one of the top bench players on the team. In the final two games, Thorburn stepped up in critical situations and averaged 8.5 points per game.

The Canadian team started the Pan Am games in poor fashion by losing the first two games to rivals Brazil and the United States. The game against the Americans came down to the wire, with Canada losing in the final moments by only three points.

After the devastating loss, the team was drained both emotionally and physically, but it didn’t stop them from crushing the Dominican Republic in the third preliminary game by a margin of 30 points.

After a loss to Cuba and a victory over Argentina, Team Canada’s record was only 2-3, but it was just good enough to earn a spot in the semi finals, and a shot at a medal.

The Cubans clubbed the Canadian women in the first playoff round, leaving bronze as the best they could do. The bronze medal would not go to Canada, however, as another loss against the relentless Brazilian team stopped the Canadians just short of a medal as they landed in fourth place.

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