Canada’s Aaliyah Edwards carries ‘Mamba Mentality’ into freshman season at UConn

Aaliyah Edwards wears her mindset on her hair.

The Canadian freshman on the University of Connecticut ladies’s basketball crew has rocked purple and gold braids since Grade 8.

It’s a continuing reminder of the late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality.’

“My brother and I, we’re very big fans of his and just love the Lakers team also. So growing up, I would watch so many videos of him trying to do the same moves as him, do the fadeaway jump shot, biting my jersey, all that stuff,” Edwards stated.

Edwards, 19, is a ahead coming into her first 12 months at UConn. The Kingston, Ont., native was recruited by famed head coach Geno Auriemma out of Crestwood Preparatory College and arrived in Storrs, Conn., in late July.

Edwards’ collegiate profession, already delayed as a result of pandemic, was postponed one other two weeks Tuesday after a member of the UConn program examined constructive for coronavirus. The earliest the Huskies can now play, if medically cleared, is Dec. 15 towards Butler.

But if Edwards is something like Kobe, she’ll keep prepared for at any time when the second is that she will be able to make her debut.

“I just love his Mamba Mentality because there’s so much focus on the game and grinding in the gym. But what’s most important, I’ve learned over the years, is the significance of your mental competitiveness, because you can get so distracted and it will turn your whole game off for the next three quarters. It’s that capability of saying, ‘Oh, I missed the layup.’ But that bounce back to next-play mentality is really what’s important,” Edwards stated.

“I just love watching videos of [Bryant] just speaking and sharing his knowledge and everything. So it really just came from my brother, his love, and he gave it to me and now rocking the braids.”

Not solely does Edwards credit score brothers Jermaine and Jahmal for introducing her to Bryant, however she says they paved the best way for her basketball profession altogether. They have been the primary to place a ball in her arms and have her dribble round the home.

“The first time I did competitive basketball was in Grade 6 when my brother [Jermaine] and my mom were my coaches. And you can just imagine how stressful that is, having someone you call mom push that from coach to mom and [for] my brother to coach and kind of that frustration that you can get with the game.”

Still, Edwards credit that additional push for making her the high-motor, extremely aggressive participant she is immediately.

In Grade 6, Edwards would have been roughly 12. Three years later, she made her Canadian nationwide crew debut at the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas event. Edwards says that was the stepping stone she wanted to pursue the game full-time.

She performed that event simply 4 months after Jermaine died at 27 years outdated. His reason behind loss of life was not made public.

“Jermaine and Aaliyah were very close and I think always will be,” mom Jackie Edwards advised the Kingston Whig Standard simply after that FIBA event.

In phrases of basketball fashion, that sentiment nonetheless holds true.

“Jermaine brought an intensity to the team that we have really missed,” stated Jermaine’s school head coach, Barry Smith, simply after his passing. “There was a reason that he averaged the number of minutes a game that he did. He was not a scorer, but made up for his lack of scoring by his own personal drive and by pushing his teammates.”

Edwards, proper, celebrates with Sami Hill after beating the Dominican Republic in Nov. 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Canadian ladies’s nationwide crew head coach Lisa Thomaidis had comparable reward for Aaliyah.

“I think the biggest thing with her is she competes, you know, she really competes hard. She’s got a great motor.”

Auriemma stated these traits remind him of UConn nice and 2019 WNBA rookie of the 12 months and all-star Napheesa Collier.

“She plays hard like ‘Pheesa does, she has a lot of energy like ‘Pheesa did. She has a motor like ‘Pheesa had. She goes, at both ends, offensively and defensively, rebounding the ball, getting to the basket,” he advised the Hartford Courant.

Edwards is a part of a gaggle of six freshmen at UConn, a younger crew for the storied program. That ought to give her loads of taking part in time to shine, and maybe make a fair higher push towards the Canadian Olympic roster in 2021.

Thomaidis says she’s searching for Edwards to proceed growing general consistency, particularly on the defensive finish, in her first season with the Huskies.

“The sky’s the limit for her. She’s certainly going to have a long career with senior national team as long as she continues to grow and improve and has a love for the game and competes hard. There’s so much that I think she can accomplish with us,” Thomaidis stated.

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Already, the coach envisions Edwards taking part in a flexible position. At 6-foot-3, she has the skillset to turn out to be the positionless participant that is turn out to be en vogue in recent times — somebody who can play inside out on offence and guard nearly each place on defence.

On the court docket, rebounding, ball dealing with and taking pictures vary are traits Thomaidis and Auriemma agreed are strengths of Edwards.

Off the court docket, it is that skilled mindset.

“My dream has always been to be a part of the Olympic team. … But in terms of just my college career, I’m just looking to develop my game both physically and mentally, so that when I leave college, I’ll be at that level where I can either go pro in the WNBA or overseas or both,” Edwards stated.

It was 2015 when a 19-year-old Kia Nurse, Edwards’ Canadian UConn predecessor, led Canada to its first Pan Am gold medal in ladies’s basketball and emerged because the nation’s subsequent hoops star.

Edwards, who will flip 20 simply weeks earlier than the Tokyo Olympics, is trying to comply with in Nurse’s footsteps.

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