Lukan eyeing Leaf
Kaili Lukan has a couple of stops to make before heading off to the University of Green Bay-Wisconsin this fall to study and play basketball alongside her older sister.
One of those could be an opportunity for the 17-year-old Barrie Central Collegiate student to play for Canada this summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships being held in Puerto Rico.
But there'll be another stop prior to that at the Canadian junior women's national team tryouts next month.
Players from across the country have been invited to the tryout through a player identification selection community of Canada Basketball and she is a part of the first round of athletes asked to attend.
She is the third of three sisters who have moved on from Central's basketball program.
Her older sister, Megan, is a returning freshman and starter at the University of Green Bay-Wisconsin while oldest sister, Alyska - who has been sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and is recovering from surgery - attends McMaster University in Hamilton.
Kaili says she is thrilled to be taking part in the junior women's national team tryouts being held at the University of Toronto' Mississauga campus March 22-26. At the completion of the tryout, Canada Basketball will identify 14 to 15 players to return to Toronto on July 28 and to train for a week together before the final roster is selected. The players selected will fly to Puerto Rico on Aug. 8 and will compete at the FIBA Americas.
The Barrie teen opened up her e-mail on Feb. 2 and learned she'd have to make some time for the tryouts.
"I was very excited to be invited. It was a goal to get an invite," she said while taking a break from her busy basketball schedule. "There are a lot of girls who are going to be at the tryout, so I'll have to wait and see how we all match up."
Lukan spends three times a week before classes at Barrie Central shooting and developing her ball-handling skills under the direction of her coach, and mom, Marg Mulder. She trains with the Barrie Royals basketball team two or three times a week for 90 minutes per session and does weight training three times a week.
She also travels to Toronto every week to train under the direction of Ontario Basketball and to train with the Canadian team program.
"Her success as a basketball player comes from within - she is determined to do what ever it takes to be the best she can be," Mulder said. "She knows her success is a direct result of the skilled players around her, so she is very fortunate to have a nucleus of talented players from the Barrie and surrounding area to play with."
As a point guard, she passes and shares the ball well, Mulder says, and because she is such an unselfish player, her teammates have the opportunity to develop and to grow together.
Her mother describes Kaili, who excels in all sports, as "a natural athlete" who has a good understanding of the game's mechanics and how to utilize them.
She credits local coaches Michele May, Patti Grace and John Knapp - among others - for helping Kaili and Megan achieve the results they have.
"Their achievements have warranted them opportunities that few players ever get. For the two of them to play at a Division 1 school that is ranked ninth in the country and draws 3,500 to 4,000 spectators per game is amazing," Mulder said. "This is a dream that I do not even think they had imagined for themselves."
But the University of Green Bay-Wisconsin will have to wait for Kaili a little yet. Right now, a chance to represent her country is calling.
"I have always thought it would be nice to play for Canada and now that I have a chance I will do my best."