NOTRE DAME — Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwahas been named to the final 12-player roster for the 2012 Canadian Senior Women’s National Team, it was announced Tuesday. Canada will be competing in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament June 25-July 1 in Ankara, Turkey, with the top five finishers from that 12-team event earning a berth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
“What a great opportunity for Natalie to be able to compete against some of the very best players in the world,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “Natalie has always been extremely proud to represent her country and we’re all so excited to follow her progress and help Canada qualify for the Summer Olympics.”
Achonwahas been a fixture on the Canadian Senior National Team roster since September 2009, when she was the youngest player to suit up for her nation’s top basketball squad at age 16. Since then, she has competed for Canada in a variety of international events, most notably the 2010 FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic, when Canada finished in 12th place. Achonwa averaged 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in eight games at the tournament.
After electing to remain on the Notre Dame campus to continue her studies and training during the summer of 2011, Achonwa rejoined Canada Basketball at the conclusion of the 2011-12 academic year. In her first appearance for her country in more than a year, Achonwa averaged 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game with a .692 field goal percentage (9-of-13) against China in a three-game exhibition series from May 16-18.
Ranked 11th in the world, Canada departed Monday night for Europe. Canada opens group play at the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament on June 25 against Mali (19th in the latest FIBA world rankings), followed the next day by a matchup with France. The top two finishers in each of the four three-team groups will advance to the quarterfinals, with the winners of the four quarterfinal games punching their ticket to London. The remaining spot will be awarded to the country that emerges from a four-team consolation bracket made up of the teams that lost in the quarterfinals. Canada is seeking its first Olympic berth since 2000, when it finished 10th in Sydney, Australia, and aiming for its first-ever medal (Canada’s best finish at the Olympics was a fourth-place showing at the 1984 Los Angeles Games).