Ajax point guard Dakota Whyte’s invitation to attend the national team basketball tryouts in Edmonton in the next two weeks is akin to playing with house money.
The University of Wisconsin senior considers herself a big winner already in that this is the first time she’s participating in a national senior camp.
“I really wasn’t expecting it because I was out of the Canada Basketball loop for two years before being recalled to the development squad a year ago,” she said. “I am however very excited to compete with the best basketball players in Canada and it would be great if I could make the team.”
Of the 22 players invited to the tryout, 12 will be selected for the Pan Am Games in the Greater Toronto Area this summer.
As one of the youngest and most inexperienced players on the squad, Whyte knows that she is a long shot to make the final roster.
“Almost half of us will not make the final cut,” she said. “The women that I will be competing with are much bigger, stronger, older and more experienced than me. The tryouts will be one of the hardest tests for me on the basketball court, but I am going into it with an open mind to impress the coaches and gain their nod. I will leave everything I have out there and let the chips fall in place.”
The Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School graduate started in 28 of 29 games with the Badgers in the 2014-15 season and was the 10th most improved scorer in the Big Ten, averaging 11.1 points a game while dishing out 3.8 assists. Her time on the court this season also increased by almost eight minutes.
Whyte has progressed admirably since her rookie season in which she averaged just 2.4 points per game.
“That was my first year away from home and I wanted to give up and return to Canada,” she said. “I was really tested, but I learned that if you have a dream, you must stick with it regardless of the obstacles you face.”
Whyte leaned on her mother – Leisa Washington – for support during that difficult period.
“My mom is my biggest supporter and critic,” said Whyte. “When I told her I didn’t think I could continue and I wanted to come home, she reminded me to not lose sight of the big picture. She’s my rock.”
Washington let her daughter know in no uncertain terms that giving up was not an option.
“That’s far too easy and it’s not in my family’s DNA,” said Washington, Canada’s first Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) agent. “She hung in there and her hard work and dedication is beginning to pay dividends. It’s an honour to represent your school, city and province and an even bigger honour to represent your country.”
In an effort to concentrate fully on basketball and studies at Wisconsin, Whyte asked to be temporarily excused from the Canada Basketball program.
“It was a personal decision I made three years ago,” she said. “I just wanted to concentrate on my college obligations and summer is the time when you really get to bond with teammates.”
Recalled to the program in 2014, she was a participant on the national “B” team that won the eight-team William Jones Cup competition in Taiwan last August. She was also a member of the national side that competed in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) three-on-three youth world championship in Italy in 2011, the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore and the inaugural Under-17 world championship in France.
After completing her senior season next year, Whyte – who is pursuing community and non-profit leadership studies – plans to play professionally in the WNBA or in a European league.