The pressure was on Jordin Canada from the moment she was drafted. With the fifth pick in the WNBA 2018 Draft, the Seattle Storm select: Jordin Canada.
After four dominant years at UCLA, Jordin not only would begin her professional career with one of the top teams in the league, but also was given one of the highest of expectations: to one day become Sue Bird’s inevitable replacement.
In the first week of Jordin’s rookie camp with the Storm, Sue approached her with advice that has stuck with Jordin ever since.
“She told me the first couple days of practice to not worry about filling her shoes,” Jordin recalled in a phone interview earlier this month while playing overseas in Turkey. “That was something that was extremely important to hear early in my career.”
Jordin’s professional career was just starting. And would quickly catapult her to heights she could only previously imagine. From taking a stand for her equality to her on-court success, in just three years, Jordin has achieved what many WNBA players can’t in their entire careers.
Growing up, Jordin’s older cousins played in her grandmother’s backyard but Jordin wasn’t allowed to join, “because I was younger and a girl and they thought I would get hurt,” so she asked her mother to sign her up to play for a local club team. Thanks to a coworker, her mother found one, and Jordin was immediately hooked.
“One day, I went to a practice and I fell in love with it,” she said. “After, I always wanted to practice. I always wanted to go to a park and work on my game as much as possible.”
When it came time to make a decision on high school, Jordin had basketball in mind.
“I went to Windward in order for me to get to where I wanted to be at,” she said. “I had to take a leap of faith and step outside my comfort zone. I went to View Park for middle school, which is an all-Black school and I knew if I wanted to be prepared basketball-wise and educational-wise I knew that I had to go somewhere I would — was able to go to a school with great education and also great program.”
She went to The Windward School in Los Angeles, where she helped her team win the league title all four years and the state title in 2011. She won the national championship with her club team, Cal Stars, in 2011 and 2012 and was rated the No. 2 point guard in the country and a top 10 recruit by multiple recruiting services. In 2014, Jordin was named the California high school girls’ basketball player of the year.
As a sophomore in high school, Jordin not only knew she was capable of playing in college, she began to feel like she could go further and play professionally one day.
“The reality is, she was one of the best point guards to be coming out of California in a long time,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said. “She had an aggression level — it’s really hard to teach aggression.
“Aggression under pressurized environments is something that is great if they already have it. And Jordin, you can tell when she was in high school, had the heart of a lion and that continued to play out right off the bat when she got to UCLA.”
Canada decided to play collegiately under Cori Close at UCLA, allowing her to stay close to home and her family.
“I didn’t want to go to another school and feel like I wanted to continue a legacy, I wanted to create one,” Jordin told UNINTERRUPTED.
She progressed well in Westwood. She was already a strong defensive force, earning two Pac-12 defensive player of the year awards, and was at her offensive best when she drove to the hoop, but her three-point shooting was, “the big inhibitor when she got to college,” according to Cori Close.
In Jordin’s freshman year, in which she was named the conference freshman of the year, she shot 13 percent from beyond the arc. Over her four years at UCLA, she improved to shooting nearly 40 percent from deep in her senior season.
Jordin turned the corner for the UCLA program, helping give the Bruins national recognition and a boost to recruiting. She graduated in 2018 as the Pac-12’s all-time assist leader (831). That legacy she wanted to create was cemented.
“Jordin, I will be forever indebted to,” Cori said. “She’s one of those program-changing players in our history and definitely in my history in my 10 years.”
The Storm showed interest in Jordin Canada, keeping a close eye on the point guard ahead of the 2018 draft.
“Being drafted to Seattle was something that I was extremely happy about,” Jordin said. “As everyone knew at the time, Sue Bird was, and still is, one of my favorite players, so to be drafted and play alongside her is a dream come true.”
The pressure of playing off the bench as Sue Bird’s replacement was eased by Sue’s advice, but it was still a different role for Jordin. She had been a star player wherever she played, a consistent starter and a leading scorer.
Now in the WNBA, she was a rookie. She wasn’t playing with people her own age as she became a peer to players like Sue, who is 15 years Jordin’s senior. The game was more physical and faster.
“Speed is what sticks out right away,” Sue told the Associated Press about Canada in 2018. “It’s one thing to see it on TV, but when you’re experiencing it in person, it’s incredible. It’s not just the speed though, it’s her ability to break defenses down. It’s very important to have someone who can do that.”
Playing behind Sue has allowed Jordin to absorb just about everything from the four-time WNBA champion.
“Just watching her in practice how she’s so involved and always talking,” Jordin said of Sue. “Her IQ of the game is something that I haven’t witnessed or seen before. And just the way that she can pick apart defenses in a timeout, after only playing two minutes against the opponents or knowing someone’s strengths and weaknesses and saying it without hesitation.”
Jordin Canada had to learn a new system, a new role, and be OK when things didn’t go her way. She never had an issue with the minutes she played. Or having to come off of the bench. But admits it was overwhelming at times learning so much while having to perform in the limited time she had on the court.
“All my teammates were there for me,” Jordin said. “They helped me and guided me throughout my first year and being able to understand the game a little bit more. … I never really felt uncomfortable.”
By getting drafted by the Storm, she was going directly to a championship contender franchise. Something many players are not fortunate to experience at the start of their professional careers.
Her debut went well, a nine-point, four-steal performance against the Phoenix Mercury. She played in all but one game in the 2018 season.
“She’s a dynamic player,” Seattle’s coach Gary Kloppenburg told the New York Times in October of 2020. “It’s a luxury to have someone like that who can come in off the bench and change the tempo of a game with her speed and quickness and her defense. She has an ability to pressure opponents and got as quick of hands as anybody I’ve ever coached.”
The Storm finished first in the western conference with a 26-8 regular season record, earning a semifinal bye with the league’s best record.
In a close series with Diana Tuarasi and the Mercury, the Storm won in five games. Jordin was now set to get a chance to play on the biggest stage in the league in just her first year.
In the 2018 WNBA Finals, Jordin had at least one assist and two points in each of the three games in a series sweep over the Washington Mystics as the Storm claimed the championship. Jordin went 4-of-14 for eight points while tallying five assists and three rebounds over the final series.
She was now: Jordin Canada, WNBA champion.
Following the 2018 regular season, Jordin embarked on an adventure, something so many WNBA players do: she went to play overseas.
She landed at Wisla Can-Pack Krakow in Poland.
“My first year [abroad] was a little rough in Poland but I think that was because it was my first year,” Jordin said.
She returned to Seattle for the 2019 season, keen to improve her personal game and ready to help the Storm defend the 2018 title.
Jordin became an elite player on defense, recording seven steals against Chicago and leading the league with 2.27 per game over her 30-game season. Jordin’s efforts earned her a spot on the 2019 WNBA All-Defensive First Team.
“In the pros, I think she doesn’t need to be as much as a scorer — though that’s really valuable — she needed to change the game when she came in on defense and she needed to work on her passing,” Cori said.
It was a tough season for the Storm without 2018 finals MVP Breanna Stewart. After she ruptured her achilles in Europe prior to the start of the 2019 season. The Storm still managed to make the playoffs but Seattle was eliminated by the LA Sparks in the second round. Despite falling short, Jordin scored a career-high 26 points in her first playoff start against Minnesota in the first round.
Attention soon turned to the 2020 season, a year like no other.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent the world, sports included, into darkness. To avoid losing the season, the WNBA formed a bubble on the IMG campus in Florida. Amid the chaos of the pandemic, something bigger and more important held priority.
George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25th. And protests across the nation and world began. Attention was drawn to other Black Americans’ deaths at the hands of the police, including Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker who was killed on March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky during a botched police raid.
The WNBA launched the “Say Her Name” campaign, wrote “Black Lives Matter” on jerseys, courts and spoke out about injustices.
“It was just very overwhelming,” Jordin said. “There were days where we had to take a step back and just take a rest day and think about things that are more important than basketball. At the end of the day, basketball is just a game and there’s a lot more things that matter.”
The WNBA’s presence in the Black Lives Matter movement throughout 2020 was unmissable. The teams took it one step further, speaking out against Senator (R-GA) Kelly Loeffler who owns the Atlanta Dream. Loeffler’s opponent, Reverend Rafael Warnock, gained support of WNBA players and teams. Including the Dream and the Storm, as players wore t-shirts that read “Vote Warnock.”
Both senate races in Georgia went to January runoffs and the Democratic candidates won. The WNBA’s efforts helped win an election — or two — and flipped the United States Senate from Republican to Democratic control.
“It just goes to show you how strong our voices are as athletes and as Black women to use our voice for the betterment of this country. And so to actually see it pay off, it’s an amazing feeling,” Jordin said, just five days after the runoff elections.
“If we continue to use our voice for the betterment of not only ourselves, but also the next generation and the country — we’re just going to continue to do as much as we can with our voices and use our platforms that we have — hopefully see this country get better day by day.”
On the court, Jordin Canada and the Storm finished the regular season in second place with an 18-4 record. Behind only the Las Vegas Aces with the same record. Just like in 2018, Seattle earned the bye to the semifinals.
After game 1 was postponed due to inconclusive COVID results, the Storm dominated the Minnesota Lynx. Sweeping the series in three games to advance to the finals against the Aces, which beat out the Connecticut Sun in five games.
In Jordin’s second finals appearance, the Storm once again swept the series to win the title. Jordin scored 10 points off the bench in game 2 and 15 points in game 3, playing a bigger statistical role offensively in the 2020 finals than she did in the 2018 finals.
“We were there on a mission,” Jordin said. “We were invested in each other and just invested in the cause of what we were trying to do. That’s what kind of made it sweet toward the end, all that hard work and all our efforts we’d done this summer wasn’t done in vain.”
In game 3, Jordin helped give Seattle a lead after the first quarter with back-to-back buckets before the end of the first frame. Both times, she put on the brakes as she drove and showed off her mid-range shot. Before scoring the first points in the second quarter with a drive to the rim from the corner.
From there, the Storm held the lead, eventually pulling away to win 92-59. Jordin’s increased role in the 2020 finals was a step in the right direction for her.
“To do it in a bubble, that will always be something I remember and my teammates will forever have because it’s never been done before. And we’re the first team to do it,” Jordin Canada said. “It was a special moment. I believe winning my first ring will always be special. But this one will always be one of my favorites if I were to win more.”
It was a strange season, one played in a bubble without fans and family, amid a pandemic and a civil rights movement. Jordin called it “bittersweet” because of the juxtaposition of winning and the discourse in the world around them. In the end, on the court, Jordin and the Storm came out champions.
“To win two championships in three years is something I never would have imagined, never would have thought of earlier in my career,” Jordin said. “I’m blessed to be part of that organization.”
Now in Turkey, Jordin is playing with Hatay, trying to hone her skills, specifically her jump shot.
“COVID makes it much more difficult,” Jordin said. “I haven’t been able to go anywhere or visit any historical sites of that nature. The organization I’m with is super friendly. I get along with everyone on the team.”
In December of 2020, it was announced that Jordin, who had been a Nike athlete for two years, would be a part of the Jordan Brand. Along with Te’a Cooper, Crystal Dangerfield, Dearcia Hamby and Satou Sabally, joining Asia Durr, Maya Moore, and Kia Nurse.
“I was just overwhelmed with joy,” Jordin said. “I have always wanted to be a part of the Jordan brand since the college days. I love what they do and what they represent and for them to notice me and my game and wanting to represent me as an athlete, it was a dream come true.”
Jordin Canada’s growing her brand, on the court and off of it. After three seasons and two titles, the sky’s the limit.
“[I’m] trying to give back to the community and that’s something that I’m currently working on with my marketing team: how can I give back and that’s genuine and intentional and not just something to just do because I have to?” Jordin said.
“I want to be involved in the community, I want to give back as much as possible.”
Over Jordin Canada’s three WNBA seasons with the Storm, she has put up consistent numbers. And honed some of her best parts of her game.
In the shortened, bubbled 2020 season, Jordin managed to better her assists per game (5.5) and 7.9 points per game with a shooting percentage of 42.4 percent. Up from 38.8 the year before. On two occasions in the regular season, Canada recorded 10 assists.
In 2019, Jordin’s minutes improved, averaging 28.8 minutes up from 16.5. She settled into her role in Seattle. Becoming a top defensive player, leading the league with 2.27 steals per game (60 in 30 games). She even found some good form shooting. Scoring a career-high 26 points in her first playoff start in the first round against Minnesota.
Known more for her defensive ability and assists, Jordin’s career-high 12 assists came in 2019 against the Dallas Wings in a game in which Jordin never turned the ball over.
In the 2018 WNBA playoffs, Jordin, still just a rookie, found another gear offensively. Scoring 6.1 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting en route to the Storm’s championship over the Washington Mystics.
Jordin’s ability to step up in the playoffs showed again in 2019 when, in her first start in the playoffs against the Minnesota Lynx, she scored a career-high 26 points.
In college, Jordin shot more while maintaining a career 41.5 field goal percentage over her four seasons and 137 games she played with the Bruins. Jordin improved vastly throughout college from three-point range. She shot 13 percent her freshman year, gradually bettering herself to 26.2, 35.4 and 38.6 percent her senior season.
As mentioned earlier, Jordin’s defense is her best strength. The 5-foot-6 guard is a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Picking pockets of some of the best players in the world on a consistent basis.
A key part of the Storm’s success as a whole is the team’s defense. When Seattle set a franchise record 18 steals in 2019, Jordin led the team with five.
Offensively, Jordin’s go-to scoring option is driving to the hoop for layups. She can also find gaps for teammates to pass to her in the key. In her 21-point performance against the Dream in 2019, Jordin scored a bit of everything. She drove, she stole and scored on fast-breaks and she got into shooting positions in the key.
Jordin’s ability to see the spaces and capitalize is instrumental, especially with her passing. She handed out 12 assists against the Dallas Wings in 2019. Which included some simple and complex passes across the court and threading needles.
Something Jordin uses on both offense and defense is her speed. She gets back on defense to make a steal or slow oppositions’ attack. Gets up the court quickly to score on fast-breaks or assist. And accelerates in small spaces to get room for a shot.
When it comes to weaknesses, Jordin says, “I wouldn’t really say I have a weakness. I think it’s being consistent in what I do but I don’t think I have a weakness.” Consistency is key for Jordin. Especially in her limited-minutes role off of the bench for the Storm. When she becomes a starter, consistency will be required to keep her spot.
Her college coach agrees that her jumpshot needs to gain consistency. And adding a solid three-point shot to her repertoire will be a game-changer. If her college career is any indicator, Jordin will better her three-point shot over time. And make herself an all-around threat on the court.
“I think that’s the piece of her game that actually makes everything else better,” Cori Close said. “If she can get this WNBA season — or even the professional season in Turkey — in the 40 percent range. That’s going to really dramatically increase her chances to be an Olympic-level point guard.”
Jordin is still hungry for more titles. And Seattle will be a favorite going into the next season as they seek back-to-back crowns. This coming season could prove massive for Jordin. With Sue Bird now 40 and Jordin reaching a point in her career where she has the experience to become a consistent starter.
She’s heading into a contract year. Which will make for interesting developments down the line with her career at the Storm.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. And Jordin has her eyes set on making the United States team. Which has not lost an Olympic game since the 1992 Games. She’s part of the team’s roster pool. And if she performs to the standards, Jordin very well could add a gold medal to her already impressive trophy cabinet.
Written by Shawn Medow, a sports writer for KTLA 5 in Hollywood, as well as multiple outlets, including covering high school sports the LA Times’ Orange County newspaper, the Daily Pilot. Find him on Twitter @ShawnMedow.
Up next, learn more about Jordin Canada’s WNBA teammate Breanna Stewart.
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