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Aaliyah Edwards confident she'll still improve with Canadian national team this summer: 'I'm staying true to who I am as a player'

Despite missing summer sessions on campus, Edwards is focused on using her time at the international level to take her game up another level.

Photo: Ian Bethune

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Last week’s Weekly:

Aaliyah Edwards sees opportunity to find even more success at the NCAA level from experience with the Canadian National Team

It’s a busy summer for Aaliyah Edwards.

The rising senior headed back home to train with the Canadian senior national team right after exams finished up in May, returned to Storrs for a week of summer workouts, went back to Canada to train with the national team once again, and now is on a trip to Mexico to compete for her country in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup tournament.

Edwards, who competed in the Olympics for Canada two summers ago, had a similar offseason in 2021. In 2022, she opted to stay on campus for the summer — a decision that ultimately paid off with a strong junior season campaign and third-team All-American nod. While competing for the Canadian national team this summer means time away from this year’s summer sessions in Storrs, Edwards’ goals for the summer remain the same as last year.

“Whenever I play with the national team, I'm always honored and blessed because you know you're playing for your country playing for something bigger than yourself,” Edwards said.

“I'm leaving summer session to go play with them, but I'm implementing the same things I would do here just with my national team,” she added. “Obviously it's a different coach, a different style of basketball, but I'm staying true to who I am as a player and true to what I want to do to improve."

Playing for her country gives Edwards unique opportunities to develop her game that she may not otherwise get staying on campus for the summer. Her experience with the Canadian team provides the chance to play alongside and against professional players, challenging her to compete with talent that may be bigger, stronger or more skilled than competition at the college level.

“I think it's always great to play in a different atmosphere and a different kind of style of basketball and play against pros because you don't really get that here,” Edwards noted.

“I think that it helps me be successful — even more successful — (when) I come back to college and NCAA,” she continued.

While Edwards’ basketball skills can benefit from her time playing for her country, so can her on court leadership. On an AmeriCup roster that won’t include the top Canadian talent currently playing in the WNBA (including former Husky Kia Nurse), Edwards can take on similar responsibilities that she did at UConn this past year and moving forward.

“Me and Coach [Geno Auriemma] always talk about dominance and being dominant and kind of carrying myself that way on the court all the time — even in practice,” she said. “So I've had a couple of conversations with him, and when I'm with my national teams, the same thing. I'm one of the older women now on the team so I'm really taking them on my back so that we can be more successful, win more medals and put our names back in the top three.”

The first step in that role with the national team is to help lead her country to a successful outing, and hopefully a medal, in the AmeriCup. Edwards and the Canadian senior national team tip-off competition this Saturday, July 1st.

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