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Meet Canada’s next basketball star

When Laeticia Amihere stepped in front of a cross-court pass for a steal at the top of the key in the defensive zone, the mood in the sparse gymnasium in Hampton, Va., during a women’s basketball tournament, had been rather sombre.

Knocking it forward, Amihere collected the basketball near mid-court and, after a couple of powerful strides, rose toward the basket at the other end.

Most were anticipating a simple layup, as women who play the game are not expected to go airborne for massive slams a la LeBron James, especially a 15-year-old high school student from Mississauga.

But Amihere had other ideas.

The 6-foot-3 athlete with a 6-foot-9 wingspan kept on rising and then propelled the ball through the hoop with her right hand for a demonstrative slam dunk that sent those in the gymnasium into a frenzy.

With that thunderous move, Amihere, who is now 16, became the first Canadian woman to dunk during a competitive game, according to Canadian basketball officials.

And the exploit served notice that the teenager is on the cusp of becoming the face of an already solid Canadian women’s senior basketball program, ranked fifth in the world.

“She has the vibrant personality, the skill set and the ability to have a presence with our national team for a long time if she keeps going in the direction she’s on,” said Carly Clarke, the head women’s coach at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

Amihere’s dunk, for the Ontario under-17 team, was in late April at the Boo Williams invitational tournament, one of the premier annual events on the basketball calendar in the United States for high school-aged girls.

Spectators roared in disbelief at what they’d witnessed and Amihere’s teammates could barely contain themselves, jumping up and down on the sideline.

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