When Laeticia Amihere was a kid, complete strangers would stop her on the street to ask if she played basketball. The reason was obvious: she hit a healthy five-foot-seven before she hit Grade 6. In reality, Amihere preferred soccer and track, and when her older brothers shot hoops, she was relegated to water girl. Yet by 11, she was donning a Mississauga Monarchs jersey in her local house league. “I think I started playing just so I wouldn’t have to have those conversations with strangers anymore,” she says.
Amihere’s skill was evident immediately. She was quite capable of charging the net, and her height made her a natural defender, meaning she could easily guard all five positions. Within four years, Amihere was playing provincial-level ball and, in 2017, she went viral as the first Canadian woman ever to dunk during gameplay at an Amateur Athletic Union tournament. When Canada’s national team came calling, she was only 15.
Nearing graduation, Amihere had racked up 54 offers from colleges and universities across North America. She ultimately chose to attend the University of South Carolina for the chance to play for Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley—a five-time WNBA all-star. At USC, Amihere had some big wins: she and four of her teammates were known as “The Freshies,” an uber-talented five-pack who, together, only lost nine games in four years. Staley has said Amihere is the most determined player she’s ever coached, a quality that helped Amihere persevere when the losses inevitably set in: two ACL tears almost benched her for good, and her oldest brother, Kofi, died suddenly last August.
Grieving her basketball-loving brother only further pushed Amihere to become one of the game’s most powerful players. This spring, she was selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA draft, kissing a photo of Kofi before she took the stage. Off court, Amihere, now 21, is working to ensure that the next generation of towering tweens won’t need the input of total strangers to realize their potential. (If you’re curious, Amihere’s current height is six-foot-three, three inches above the WNBA’s average.) Last year, she founded Back to the Motherland, a not-for-profit that brings basketball to underserved communities in West Africa, where Amihere’s parents are from. She also signed her first big sponsorship with Under Armour in May. There’s buzz surrounding the possible creation of Canada’s first WNBA team in Toronto. If the time comes for her to play on home soil again, she certainly won’t be on water duty.
P O P Q U I Z W I T H L A E T I C I A
Favourite sports flick: The Game Plan. “I was totally obsessed with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson when I was growing up.”
First concert: Maverick City Music, an American worship band
Most overused word: “I think it would probably be censored”
Can’t-lose object: Her phone—and the 10,000 photos it stores
Career goal: “I’m pursuing a master’s in sports management. Coaching is a possibility.”