A little more than two months ago, Jordin Canada was the floor general for one of the top collegiate teams in the country, a player who always had the ball in her hands and her team’s fortunes on the floor largely in her control.
“In our first game, I tried to set a screen on [Phoenix Mercury center] Brittney Griner and she just threw me aside like it was nothing,” Canada said of her introduction to the WNBA on May 20.
A lot things change, as it turns out.
Canada, the UCLA product, is no longer in her hometown of Los Angeles, with close access to family and friends, dinner at her parents’ home a short drive away. She is no longer a college star, but a professional rookie. She is no longer the emotional center of her team, but a young player learning every day what she needs to do to make an impact at the next level. The ball, more often than not, is in someone else’s hands. And it isn’t her job to score her team out of a jam, but to make sure she’s getting the ball to someone else who can.
But the Seattle Storm rookie is making her presence felt nonetheless.
“She’s done really well,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “She has come in, adapted to a new system, coming off the bench for the first time. People will notice the offense, but she’s been able to be a catalyst for us for ball pressure and how we do things defensively.”
Canada was drafted with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft by Hughes as the franchise’s future floor leader, with Sue Bird closing in on the final years of her legendary career. Canada, one of the top collegiate point guards in the country over the past few years, is learning from a future Hall of Famer, and the WNBA’s all-time assist leader. A lot of that learning is listening.
“I feel like I’m learning a lot from her in practices and even in shootaround,” Canada said. “In games, she is always constantly talking to me, during plays, in practice, in scouting sessions, making sure I understand different terminology.
“She wants me to know why people do one thing or another. We talk about offense and spacing and learning how to put people in position to be successful.”
Bird said Canada has been “humble” about all that she has to take in as a rookie point guard in the world’s best league.
“Jordin hasn’t walked in here thinking this was going to be a breeze,” Bird said. “She understands there is going to be a learning curve. She’s been really welcoming of help and information and it’s been fun.”
Bird knows better than anyone how big a change this is for a young point guard.
“Jordin had a role in college. She had to have the ball in her hands 99 percent of the time for her team to win, that’s what she had to do,” Bird said. “Everything is new. The spacing, the terminology, the offense, it’s a lot to take in. Her speed has an effect, her ability to break down a defense. She comes into the game and gives the other point guard fits, which is great for the tempo of our team. But she needs to learn that she’s playing with people like Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, people who can drop 30 points in a game and she’s got to get them the ball as much as possible.”
Canada is getting that message loud and clear.
“I’ve never had to space and cut and move so much without the ball,” Canada said. “Playing with people like Stewie and Jewell and Sue, I’m learning not to be one-dimension and just making sure that I’m creating opportunities for people to score.”
The Storm have won three in a row to push their record to 3-1 heading into Tuesday’s big matchup with unbeaten Washington.
Canada’s minutes have been up and down. The more she’s played, the more productive she’s been, including nine points and four steals in the season opener and 10 points against Chicago last week.
Canada’s speed allows Seattle to push tempo. Hughes said he likes playing Bird and Canada together to give his team more offensive dimension.
“I like having two point guards to play off of each other,” Hughes said. “Jordin pushes the ball really well and she can get the ball to Sue for catch-and-shoot opportunities. It works well. I had them on the floor together the entire overtime against Chicago.”
Canada said she wants to impact her team with her speed and a defensive mentality. She believes her offense will come.
“I’m not so much worried about scoring,” Canada said. “My job is to come in and impact on defense and help the offense flow and get the ball to people where they need it.”
Off the court, Canada said she is adjusting well to being away from home for the first time, acknowledging that it’s nice to be on the west coast.
“Everybody here has been really welcoming and I feel comfortable,” Canada said. “I don’t feel like a grown-up yet, but at some point this season, I will.”
Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.