ASU guard's Canadian team experience shaped her 'tenacious spirit'

While representing Team Canada, ASU junior guard Taya Hanson played games spanning the globe

Taya Hanson has represented her home country of Canada since she was 15 years old, and now she is an ASU women's basketball junior guard.

"Playing for Team Canada helped me develop my fundamentals," Hanson said. "It was a constant process that is paying off." 

Growing up in the town of Kelowna, British Columbia in Canada, Hanson was 12 when she started playing travel basketball for her local provincial team, the British Columbia Provincial Team. 

Hanson and her teammates would travel to the U.S. to play in a variety of tournaments and events throughout the year. 

"At the end of the year we competed against all the other provincial teams in Canada," Hanson said.  

Along with playing for her province, Hanson attended regional training camps in the fall before the basketball season. At the regional training camps, Hanson was coached by Mike and Allison McNeill, who was the head coach of Canada’s senior women's basketball team at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

“Being coached by coach (Allison) McNeill was a fantastic experience," Hanson said. "She taught me so much in the time I spent with her."

When Hanson was 14, she was selected alongside current New York Knicks guard and third overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, fellow Canadian RJ Barrett, to attend a basketball camp in Turkey. The camp was put on by the Turkish Basketball Federation. 

“This was such a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Hanson said. “I got to meet people from all over the world. I’m still in touch with a number of people who I meet there.” 

Eventually Hanson began playing on Team Canada’s cadet teams. Cadet teams are national teams that play during the summer and, according to Hanson, are "the highest level you can play at for your particular age group."

When Hanson was 15, she played on the Canadian U16 and U17 cadet teams in consecutive seasons, despite being a year younger than the competition. In fact, during her time with the U13 through U17 provincial and cadet teams, she was a year younger than most of her teammates. 

And in 2015, with the U16 cadet team, Hanson won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas in Mexico.

“Seeing Taya win a gold medal was an amazing experience,” said Hanson's father, Don Hanson. “I couldn’t believe it when they won.” 

During her time with the cadet teams, Hanson traveled to Spain and Thailand to compete in the International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, held tournaments and nearly won another gold medal in Mexico, losing to the United States in the final.

But after representing Canada’s U17 at the age of 16, Hanson took the summer off from competitive basketball. 

"I was too old to play for the cadet team, and too young to play on the junior team," Hanson said.

She then went to Ontario to train with the development team, which is a mix of high school and college players who are currently not on a cadet or a junior national team.

Hanson has used these experiences to help lead the ASU women's basketball program. Along with junior forward Jayde Van Hyfte and junior guards Iris Mbulito and Jamie Loera, Hanson will be tasked with trying to lead a young Sun Devils team this season that only has one senior on the roster.

"Taya is a kind and caring teammate," Van Hyfte said. "(She is) a leader who is always willing to help others out.”

After playing for ASU, Hanson hopes to return back to Canada and compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and if not in 2024, she said she'll "train again and try to make the team in 2028."

"It has been a dream of mine to play for Canada since I was young," she said. “When you are playing against the best players from around the world, you’re only going to get better.” 

Until then, Hanson will continue to "develop (her) skills more and more."

“Since representing Canada, I have found so much passion in the game I never knew was there before," Hanson said. "I play with a tenacious spirit, and the same spirit has come with me to ASU." 


Reach the reporters at njpietrz@asu.edu and follow @NPietrzycki on Twitter. 

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