Topeka High star softball player NiJaree Canady announced her commitment to play softball at Stanford University on October 12.
Canady was an athlete in two sports during her time at Topeka High. With her commitment to the Stanford official, she made the decision to forgo the basketball season to continue preparing for the rigors of Pac-12, Division I softball.
The idea of giving up his final year of basketball had always been in his head and after talking with his coaches and family it was about doing what was best for his future.
“I knew I wanted to play for my team and I love these girls with all my heart,” Canady said. “But I want to spend this winter just training for softball, getting ready. The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences to play in softball.
“If I’m not prepared my teammates at Stanford are going to suffer.”
Previously:Eh eh ! Topeka High’s NiJaree Canady named MaxPreps All-American
Coach: Team knew NiJa Canady could skip basketball
Head coach Hannah Alexander said everyone knew there was a possibility that Canady would give up her final year of basketball and said everyone wished her only the best.
“(The team) were just super excited for their future,” said Alexander. “They were all at his signature. It’s one of those things that you dream of. To make it happen for her and for the children and community members to see this for someone in our area, it says a lot about what little children can admire.
Canady plays for the Louisville Lady Sluggers, a high-performance, fast-paced softball program.
In the past, she had to miss training during the winter sports season. The Lady Sluggers trained on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Canady had basketball games on Friday, so there was no time for her to travel to Kentucky for practice.
“It frees me up to practice more with my (softball) team,” Canady said. “I can pitch more times a week. Instead of two to three times a week, I can run it up to five times a week.
Canady said she and her teammates shed tears when she told them, but they all got it and she would always be on the squad.
“There was no bad reaction at all. We all understood that, ”said Senior Guard Tae Thomas. “We knew it was his dream. We are so proud of her and everything she has accomplished. We knew softball was important to her and we want her to reach her goals.
When asked what stands out about basketball at Topeka High, Canady highlighted his first game in his freshman year when Topeka High played against Lawrence.
Canady faced off against Chisom Ajekwu, a 6’4 “senior who had signed up to play basketball in Kansas.
“As a freshman you’re like, ‘OK, I’m a freshman going against this senior going to KU,’ Canady said. “I remember that first year, everyone doubted us. My first points in high school were a three-point, I shot him.
“We ended up winning this game, won a few more and got everyone’s attention.”
“I told her that would be her biggest challenge so far and she came in and totally dominated the game,” Alexander said. “I knew she was the real deal, but it solidified her.”
Canady said she will remember the teammates and the memories she made when she thought about basketball at Topeka High.
“You don’t remember every win and loss, but you remember the stories you told on the buses, stuff like that,” Canady said.
Following:Bathe in Glory: Topeka High’s NiJaree Canady Named Gatorade Kansas Softball Player of the Year
NiJa Canada excelled in basketball and softball
Canady has been playing sports for as long as she can remember.
Growing up, it was basketball, softball, tennis – and even soccer, which she said her mother was not happy about.
But she began to turn to basketball and softball in college.
Ever since Canady was young she knew she wanted to play sports at a Division I, Power 5 level, she just didn’t know what sport. By her first year, she knew softball would be that sport, but wanted to continue playing basketball.
“I really wanted to finish three seasons,” said Canaday. “Honestly, I only made this decision a few weeks ago, maybe a week before practice.”
Previously: NiJaree Canady launches Topeka High for regional Class 6A softball title
Canada’s immediate impact
Before coming to Topeka High, Canady was at Washburn Rural Middle School, where you couldn’t play, which Canady did while playing sports growing up.
“When you get into high school, if you’re a freshman in college, you’re playing seniors,” Canady said. “There is the age, the size and the difference in speed. It was absolutely necessary to adapt.
Canady handled the adjustment very well, attending college from the moment he arrived in high school. She averaged one double-double over the three years at Topeka High and helped the team qualify for the state tournament each of those three years.
“NiJa was always ready, she played with the boys (growing up),” Alexander said. “I don’t think there was a lot of adjustment period for her. She sort of came in ready to dominate right off the bat. I knew she was going to be a beast to us.
“She’s just a great kid all around,” Topeka High definitely put on the map. She has been a great leader for us.
Previously:6A Girls: NiJaree Canady brings Topeka High women’s basketball back to title game
In 2018, the team went 22-3, Canady averaged 20.6 points per game, 10.6 (rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game, 2.4 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game.
In 2019, the team went 23-0 with the playoffs stopped due to COVID, averaging 18.8 PPG for Canady, 10.2 RBP 1.4 APG, 2.5 SPG and 1.0 BPG .
Last year Canady averaged 20.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.5 SPG and 1.8 BPG, while the team went 23-2, finishing second in State 6A.
Canady has been named First Team All-League, First Team All-City and First Team All-State in all three years of play.
She won freshman of the year honors as well as being named player of the year in her second and junior years as well as being listed in the state’s Top 5 in those two years as well.
Alexander said his ability to take control of the game, and not in a selfish manner, stood out as it improved year on year.
She called Cannady a dominant player who improved everyone around her with the energy she brought.
Thomas has been playing with Canady since fifth year, and the chemistry they had on the pitch was undeniable.
When asked what made Canady so dangerous, Thomas replied, “Everything. “
“By playing with it for a long time, I could throw it up anytime,” Thomas said. “I could throw it from the half-court and throw it at her, she would go up there and take it and put it in place. If she missed it, she knew exactly where her bounce was going to go, she would grab it and come back up again.
“With me and NiJa it was natural, we always knew what we could do.”
Following:Repeat POY: Topeka High’s NiJaree Canady Named Best Of The Centennial League For Second Year In A Row
What they will remember
We asked those who saw her year after year what stood out about Canady and facing her on the basketball court, if there had been a “wow” moment they will always remember.
Here is what they said.
Alexander: “It’s just a brickyard, it was hard to keep it. I would fight the refs if it got dirty. They said it wasn’t out of place. There would be three girls trying to move it. It is always a fault.
“Washburn Rural when we were at Washburn Rural and we probably should have lost that game.
“(Canady) got a tip on the play in bounds, got a steal, we shot it, missed it, she got a rebound and kicked it out. To the right person and Faith Shields got it. got a 3 at the end because of what NiJa made. This is the one freshest on my mind.
“We were down the whole game, we weren’t playing well, we didn’t have any of our fans there because of COVID and for her to make that kind of statement was huge.”
Hayden Head Coach Carvel Reynoldson: “When she was in sixth I saw her in Kansas City playing with the boys in seventh at a very high level and not falling back at all. Great rebounder even though she was playing against older boys. Physical, tough. Somewhat. something I had never seen before, a special athlete for sure. “
Emporia Head Coach Carolyn Dorsey: “I remember just hearing the impact of our kids trying to meet her at the free throw line, so she didn’t get a head full of steam coming down the block. She’s so powerful. I have her. watched for three years now. I dreaded playing with her. She’s a child you can’t stop.
“What I will remember about her is how hard she played, how physical she was and how excellent she was as a competitor. She clearly loves softball, but basketball, she does. ‘has made it his own too. It is the mark of a true athlete. “
Seaman Head Coach Matt Tinsley: “In 2020 both of our teams were state ranked teams, and we were in a close game with them at home. We made a concerted effort to try to contain her inside defensively, but she came out. and made a 3-point rhythm. That increased their lead from four to seven late in the game and practically sealed the win for them. Not only could she score at will inside and dominate the glass, but she was could also shoot from the outside. “
Topeka West Head Coach Jeffrey Skar: She was really smart on the job, knew how to get angles and score, and she worked so hard. I don’t really have a ‘wow moment’, just that she was so stable and reliable. S
Contact Seth Kinker at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SethKinker.