Why you should care
Because her dunk will make your head spin.
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Google her name, and the first thing you see is a video of a female basketball player stealing the ball, going coast to coast and slamming down a colossal dunk. The video went viral — getting picked up by the Bleacher Report, ESPN and USA Today, which called it “the most powerful dunk by a woman ever.”
That “woman”? Laeticia Amihere, and in the video, she’s 15 years old.
“I know there aren’t a lot of females that dunk in games,” says Amihere, who turned 16 in July. “In Canada, we don’t get much media coverage, so being able to get something viral for Canadian basketball and for female basketball … that’s important.”
— Ontario Basketball (@OBANews) April 30, 2017
In fact, there are only five WNBA players in the history of the league who have thrown down a dunk during a game. And Amihere is adding to her record with more than her aggressive jams north of the border.
“We’ve never had a 15-year-old on the senior [women’s] national team before,” says Mike MacKay, Team Canada’s performance manager. Canada has four national teams, which girls advance through based on their age, starting with cadette and ending with senior (consisting of the country’s top 12 players who compete in the Olympic Games). This summer, Amihere was asked to play with the senior team, some of whom are nearly twice her age.
Amihere, who lives in Ontario with her mother, started playing basketball four years ago. Since then, she won MVP of her elite high-school prep basketball league; helped the U19 Team Canada win its first-ever bronze medal at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup; was named an all-star at the U19 World Cup; and represented Canada on the senior women’s national team in its run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She first picked up a basketball in seventh grade because her two older brothers played the game — and she already stood 6 feet tall (she’s now 6-foot-3). She started with a noncompetitive community league, where a top-tier team’s coaches took notice and called her up after just two months to join the more competitive travel team, the Mississauga Monarchs. From there, Amihere ascended the ranks of Canadian women’s basketball, reaching the highest level when she joined the national team program in 2015.
She’s 16 years old; she has to get better at everything.
Zelimir Stevanovic, head basketball coach, King’s Christian Collegiate
“The first thing we do with players is the eye test, and Laeticia has good height and length,” MacKay tells OZY. “I’ve seen thousands of players in my years [with Canada Basketball], and lots of people can pass the eye test, but she has more than that.” Besides height and wingspan, MacKay remarks on “how explosive she is.” And she’s fast: She won the 4x100-meter race at the 2017 OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championship.
But Amihere is focused on a future that’s bigger than how good she is at 15, or 16: “She’s already looking at a world stage,” says MacKay. To get there, her immediate goal is to play for a top Division 1 school. And then? “The ultimate dream would be to win a championship, and, after that, the WNBA,” she says.
And with the 2020 Tokyo Games fast approaching, Amihere has the potential to snag a spot on the Olympic team by age 19 and compete with the women she’s admired throughout her basketball career. “It’s kind of weird that a couple months ago I was watching these girls compete at the Rio Olympics, and now I’m playing with those players and against them,” she says.
But Amihere says playing with the senior national team revealed how much work she needs to do. In her first game with the team, she scored six points — compared to the 20 points per game she averaged with the U19 national team. And her senior teammates haven’t soft-pedaled what it’s like to play college and professional ball. “It’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever had to do,” Amihere says. “They said it’s a grind every single day.”
So she’s focused on building her strength with a strict weight-lifting regimen and continuing to grow her basketball fundamentals. “She’s 16 years old; she has to get better at everything,” says Zelimir Stevanovic, head basketball coach at King’s Christian Collegiate, where Amihere is a student.
“I think a lot of people talk about how she can dunk the ball — she can do this, she can do that — she can score, defend, whatever,” adds Stevanovic. “But she’s got the perfect personality for a professional athlete. I played pro for 15 years, and I know that her drive to succeed, her drive to get better, that’s what is going to take her far.”
The potential her coach sees hasn’t escaped the notice of college recruiters. Currently the No. 2 pick on ESPN’s Class of 2019 prospects, Amihere is already sitting on more than 15 Division 1 basketball scholarship offers — as she enters 11th grade. “From San Diego to New York, there’s not a single [varsity basketball program] that doesn’t want her,” says Stevanovic. “This kid … if she keeps doing what she’s doing, could be the best female player in the world.”
Lofty, and rather predictable, praise from her own coach, but Amihere is determined to keep her feet on the ground — until she fires off for another breakaway dunk.