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Northern Ontario basketball players, coaches welcome Toronto’s WNBA expansion | CBC News

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The news Toronto is getting a Women’s National Basketball Association expansion team came as a thrill to Canadian National Collegiate Athletics Association player Sophia Zulich.

“There really is a lot of opportunity for the WNBA to expand in Toronto and to be extremely successful,” said Zulich, who grew up in Sudbury, Ont. and has played for the University of Denver and University of Miami.

“We have so many Canadians who play basketball in the NCAA. I wasn’t able to get the exact figure, but I obviously know my peers here at Miami this past year. We were five Canadians on the roster.”

From left: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Kilmer Group chairman and CEO Larry Tannenbaum, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow celebrate the arrival of the league’s newest team. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

The news that Toronto is getting a WNBA team was made official on Wednesday at a press conference attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, rapper Drake and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes.

The team doesn’t have a name yet, and will start playing in May 2026.

Because of the pay disparity between women’s and men’s professional sports, Zulich says she isn’t interested in continuing her basketball career with the WNBA. But she hopes as the league expands that situation improves.

“Canada is not something that should be counted out in terms of basketball and this expansion I think really helps to show the rest of the world that.,” she said.

Jen Bourget, Zulich’s former coach in Sudbury, and currently the coach at the Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School prep team, says Toronto’s WNBA team will inspire a lot of young players to follow their dreams.

“I think that, you know, if you can see something, then maybe you can dream,, maybe that can be them, right?” she said.

“That can be me someday.”

Katie Hamilton, who is currently head coach of Algoma University’s women’s basketball team, says the new team is “fantastic for women’s basketball in Ontario and Canada.”

“I’m a firm believer that people can’t really aspire to be something that they don’t see. So if we don’t have those female role models in front of us, it’s hard to make a plan and set a pathway to then reach that end goal,” Hamilton said.

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