Under Bird’s Guidance, Canada Looks to Become Next Great Storm Point Guard

NEW YORK – She always knew it was a strong possibility. Just about every media outlet had Jordin Canada going to the Seattle Storm in Thursday’s WNBA Draft, and it made too much sense considering their familiarity with the Pac-12 product. Thus, it came as no surprise when WNBA President Lisa Borders announced her name for the No. 5 overall pick.

Still, she couldn’t help but smile while holding up the Seattle jersey for the first time. The Los Angeles native will be fortunate to stay on the West Coast, team up with fellow L.A. native and UCLA product Noelle Quinn, and play alongside some of the best young talent in the league.

Perhaps most exciting of all, she will learn from the best point guard in WNBA history.

“Sue Bird is very influential to me,” Canada said. “I just watch how she leads her team, the way she sets up her teammates, creates for others and takes over when need be.

“I’m so excited to play with her. I’ve gotten so much knowledge from her in the past, and just being able to learn from her again, see her up close and personal and how she works off the court and on the court. I’m just looking to gain as much knowledge as I can, and try to take it and run with it.”

Indeed, Canada has reached out to Bird in the past to pick her brain. The 5-foot-6 point guard spent plenty of time in Seattle during college, playing in Pac-12 Tournaments at the Storm’s KeyArena and facing the Washington Huskies on a regular basis.

Now, Seattle fans will hope to see her put on a show with Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd for many years to come.

“Man, I love their game,” Canada added. “I’ve talked to Jewell Loyd a couple times. I’m so excited to get there, learn from them and be able to play with them.”

It’s easy to see why the Storm targeted her early in the first round. Canada finished her career as one of the Pac-12’s most dominant players on both sides of the floor, ranking first in all-time assists (831) and third in steals (347). She averaged 17.0 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.3 steals this past season while guiding UCLA to its first Elite Eight appearance in almost 20 years.

A two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Canada led the conference in steals for two-straight seasons. On the offensive end, she shot 13 percent from three-point range as a freshman and improved to 39 percent as a senior.

“Is there a player that’s more fun to watch than her?” ESPN’s LaChina Robinson said on a conference call with media before the draft. “She can lose a defender off the bounce, no problem. Very classy. She can penetrate the defense, find the seams. She’s got the next-level quickness. Not a pure shooter, meaning I don’t think she’s thinking about shooting the three every time she touches it.

“But you have to respect the fact that she’s worked on that three. She has an extremely high motor and the only question mark is really her durability, because she’s kind of small and you can move her around the court. But that’s fixable.”

Canada reiterated that getting stronger is the main focus heading into her rookie season. She figures to come off the bench right away, which will aid a Storm unit that has ranked last in bench points for two straight years.

Bird, now 37, arrived in Seattle 16 years ago and has captivated Storm fans ever since. Canada is hoping to replicate the success of a legendary floor general.

“There’s so many [great point guards], but I think Sue sets the standard,” Canada said. “Why not learn from somebody who has the highest expectations? … Just the fact that I get to play with her and learn so much, it’s just a blessing.”