Sept. 8, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame freshman forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) is one of 12 players who have been named to the 2010 Canada Senior Women's National Team that will compete in the FIBA World Championship for Women Sept. 23-Oct. 3 in the Czech Republic. At age 17, Achonwa is the youngest player on the Canadian roster, as well as one of only two current NCAA players (Gonzaga's Janelle Bekkering is the other) that will suit up for the Maple Leafs later this month.
"This is such a tremendous accomplishment and it's a credit to Natalie for all the hard work she has put in to make this happen," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She has a unique opportunity to be able to go up against some of the world's best players before she even plays a game at the college level. That kind of experience is going to be invaluable for her, and there's no doubt in my mind she'll be a better player for it. We couldn't be happier for her and are looking forward to following her progress at the World Championships."
Achonwa (pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh) is no stranger to the Canadian National Team program, having competed with her country's Junior National Team as a 15-year-old in 2008 at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, averaging 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while helping Canada win a silver medal. A year later, she was a key contributor for Canada at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Thailand, registering 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as the Maple Leafs recorded their best-ever finish (fourth) at the tournament, which was won by a United States side piloted by current Notre Dame associate coach Carol Owens and led on the court by USA co-captain and current Fighting Irish sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington).
Achonwa made her debut with the Canadian Senior National Team in September 2009 at the age of 16, making her the youngest player ever to be selected for her country's top women's basketball team. She then saw action in five games at last year's FIBA Americas Championship in Brazil, collecting 6.6 points and 4.2 points per game in the tournament as Canada earned the bronze medal and secured a berth in this year's FIBA World Championship. She has been a mainstay with the program for the past year, most recently suiting up for a four-game exhibition series in July when Canada posted two wins each over Chile and Sweden out in British Columbia -- Achonwa averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .538 field goal percentage in that series.
The rest of Team Canada already has ventured to Europe, currently staying in Lille, France, for a pre-tournament training camp. Achonwa will join the team in Athens, Greece, in time for a two-game exhibition series Sept. 18-19 against the Greek National Team. Canada officially opens preliminary round group play at the 16-team FIBA World Championship Sept. 23 against Australia in Ostrava, Czech Republic, with additional games against China and Belarus scheduled for the ensuing two days. The top three teams in each group will advance to second round group action Sept. 27-29, with the top four teams emerging from the two second-round groups to compete in medal round contests. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final will be held on consecutive days Oct. 1-3.
Fans can follow all the action from the 2010 FIBA World Championship, including live statistics, results and more, by going on-line to the tournament's official web page at Czechrepublic2010.fiba.com.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, join the Fighting Irish women's basketball news Twitter page (www.twitter.com/ndwbbsid) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at UND.com.