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Canada’s senior women’s basketball team sat courtside at Mattamy Athletic Centre as under-23 stars Aaliyah Edwards, Merissah Russell and Shaina Pellington dismantled France on Thursday.

The Canadian women went a perfect 3-0 through the preliminary round of the inaugural FIBA Globl Jam. They face the United States in Saturday’s semi-finals of the under-23 tournament that has been a terrific chance for younger players such as Edwards and Pellington to hone leadership skills they can carry over to the senior side.

“When they’re in our atmosphere, they’re learning, they’re the rookies, they’re the young players, they’re trying to be sponges,” said senior team veteran Natalie Achonwa. “But it’s definitely important for their confidence and further leadership to be able to go back to their peers and take what they’ve learned from our senior team.

“And not only just in how they play, but also how they conduct themselves … and just really passing on the culture that starts up top, starts with us and trying to bring that through all of our age groups.”

Edwards, who’s 19, Pellington (23), and Russell (20) were the youngsters on Canada’s Olympic team last summer in Tokyo, but should play far bigger roles in 2024 in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles.

Edwards, a Kingston native and forward for the Connecticut Huskies, had 20 points and 10 rebounds against France, her third double-double in as many games. She said the chance to be a leader is a “full-circle” moment.

“Having the experience with the women’s national team, I had a lot of mentors. All my big sisters carrying me up to that level, they’re now moving on with their professional careers, so for me to be able to step up is what coach has been harping on, to be a leader and guide the next generation,” she said.

Pellington, a Pickering, Ont., native and guard for the Arizona Wildcats, said she’s used to being one of the youngest players on teams.

The Canadian women also defeated Belgium and the U.S. in Globl Jam preliminary-round games. The Canadian men went 2-1, beating Brazil and the United States before losing to Italy. They also play the U.S. in Saturday’s semi-finals.

The gold-medal games go Sunday.

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