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Dartmouth’s Daneesha Provo of the University of Utah dribbles past Utah Valley defenders during an NCAA women’s basketball game Dec. 1 in Salt Lake City. Utah is tied atop the Pac-12 Conference with a 9-0 record. (UTAH ATHLETICS)
Dartmouth’s Daneesha Provo of the University of Utah dribbles past Utah Valley defenders during an NCAA women’s basketball game Dec. 1 in Salt Lake City. Utah is tied atop the Pac-12 Conference with a 9-0 record. (UTAH ATHLETICS)

There’s a pipeline that runs from Canada to the University of Utah.

It’s not shipping oil south of the border but basketball players to the Utes women’s program.

Eighteen Canadian-born players have suited up for the Utah women’s squad since 1997-98. At least one Canuck has played on the team each season in the past two decades and at least two have played together since 2009-10.

This season, there are five (!) Canadians — including six-foot senior forward Daneesha Provo of Dartmouth — playing for Utah, which boasts a 9-0 record and sits tied atop the Pac-12 Conference standings.

“We have a lot of freshmen and we have five Canadians, which is a lot, the most we’ve ever had,” Provo said. “That’s exciting for me.”

Provo is the lone senior — and starter — of the bunch. Winnipeg’s Niyah Becker and Andrea Torres of Terrebonne, Que., are freshmen, Maurane Corbin is six-foot-five sophomore forward from Saint-Bruno, Que., and Julie Brosseau is a junior out of Repentigny, Que.

“There’s definitely a Canadian vibe here in Utah,” said Provo, who’s second in Utes scoring with 12.8 ppg while averaging nearly 26 minutes.

“It’s a great environment. They love their sports. People are super nice and respectful. Plus, it snows here and it’s cold in the winter. I guess we’re kind of used to that. But it’s amazing how successful Canadians have been here, especially on the national team level. That’s a huge part and it’s a great conference.”

Provo, who left home at 14 to chase her dream of playing in the NCAA, began her university career at Clemson. But the South Carolina university wasn’t the right fit and she lasted less than a year there.

She sat out a year and played with Canada’s national program. While with the national squad, two of her teammates persuaded Provo to come to Salt Lake City and resume her collegiate career in the Pac-12, one of the toughest conferences in the U.S.

And just as former teammates Emily Potter of Winnipeg and Paige Crozon of Humboldt, Sask., sold Provo on the Utes, she returned the favour by convincing former national teammates Becker (2018 Commonwealth Games) and Corbin (’16 Development National Team) to come to Utah.

“It was a huge part for me to get them here just as it was when

Paige and Potter kind of influenced me to come here,” recalled Provo, a health sciences major.

“So I kind of took on the role and convinced them to come to Utah. There has always been a Canadian connection here and a lot of the Canadians that played here have been really successful. Most of them play or end up playing on the national team.

“We all know each other which makes the adjustment to college much easier.”

There haven’t been many days in 2018 where Provo couldn’t be found competing on the hard court.

Following her junior season at Utah, she was on a plane to Australia where she represented Canada at last April’s Commonwealth Games. Provo led the team in minutes played and averaged 13.2 points in five games as Canada finished fourth at the international event.

Over the summer, she was back overseas playing for the Canadian senior women’s team during a two-game exhibition series in Guangzhou, China.

“Playing in the Commonwealth Games impacted me a lot going into this college season,” Provo said. “But I want to say playing with the senior team the past summer helped me a lot and it helped me take on more of a leadership role.

“I have brought the leadership and what I learned from the older girls on the Canadian senior team back here to Utah.”

Provo was coming off a junior campaign in which she ranked in the top 20 in the Pac-12 in scoring (19th), field goal percentage (sixth), free throw percentage (fifth), three-point percentage (eighth) and three-pointers made per game (12th)

She hasn’t missed a beat this season. Not only is she the Utes’ second leading scorer, Provo is second on the team in steals with 21 in nine games.

On Nov. 26, Provo collected an NCAA career-high 27 points and had five steals in Utah’s 89-62 victory over Seattle University.

“It’s been a lot of fun playing as a senior,” Provo said. “I have a lot of confidence and being my last year, I just want to make the most out of my senior year.

“There are a lot of expectations on me and the team this season. But I try not to look into it because then it puts a lot of pressure on me. It’s my last season, I want to be out there having fun and I think that’s why I’ve been having a successful season.”

Utah is tied atop the conference with No. 14 California and USC at 9-0.

Confidence is high on the Utes, who were 18-14 overall last year and only 8-10 in the conference.

Their sweetest victory of the season thus far came on Dec. 8 when they defeated the rival BYU Cougars of nearby Provo, Utah, 78-67 for their eighth straight win.

“It’s a huge rivalry in this state,” Provo explained. “I never knew what this rivalry was like until I first got here. You don’t like them. There was a girl I used to play against on BYU a couple years ago who was representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games and you just don’t like them because of BYU. You just want to beat them so bad. That’s the one team you want to beat. It’s like a Super Bowl game for women’s basketball here.”

Utah returns to action this week as part of a two-game series called the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas. They face the Florida Gators on Thursday and either Hawaii or UNLV on Friday. The games will wrap up non-conference play for Utah.

The Utes will travel to face Pac-12 rival Colorado in their first game after Christmas on Dec. 30.

Although she’ll spend another holiday season away from the comforts of home, Provo said she will get to spend Christmas with her father, brother and great grandfather who are travelling to Vegas and then to Salt Lake City with her.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Provo said. “I’ve been away from home for so long.”

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