Saunders grad a standout on and off court

By Morris Dalla Costa
London Free Press
April 22, 2010

She’s one of those athletes whose academic and athletic accomplishments would pretty much fill the page.

You won’t learn much of that from Miranda Ayim, though.

The London Saunders secondary school graduate prefers to just go about her business of playing basketball, hitting the books and following her faith.

But when you’re very good at what you do, it’s your talent that does the talking. Ayim just completed a terrific four-year career at Pepperdine, culminating with her selection as the top Division I women’s basketball scholar-athlete. She was one of 30 players nominated nationwide in the U.S. for the Lowe’s CLASS Award that combines athletics, character, academics and work in the community.

Ayim moved up her exam schedule because Friday she leaves for Phoenix, where she will attend the Mercury’s WNBA training camp.

If that doesn’t work out, she’ll probably head to Europe to play.

“It’s pretty busy right now,” Ayim said from California, even though she didn’t sound ruffled in the slightest by everything happening around her.

“It’s been a great four years. Not just in basketball but everything else as well. I was excited because of the people and the school itself is a great institution academically and it’s a Christian-based school, which is one of the reasons I came here.”

Ayim was one of several Pepperdine student-athletes to be awarded the school’s scholar-athlete award.

“Coming here, I refused to be labeled as a dumb jock or fit any stereotype that’s attached to the traditional student-athlete,” she said. “I want all student-athletes to take pride in furthering themselves and then to do something with those t alents – share them with your teammates – or else they’ll be laid to waste.”

Ayim will graduate with a 3.71 grade-point average and a degree in public relations.

She’s a two-time all-WCC first-team selection. In three seasons, she averaged 10.3 points and six rebounds, playing 87 games, making 68 starts and averaging 26.5 minutes. She ranks sixth all-time in blocked shots and eighth in field-goal percentage at the school.

In 2008-09, she was Pepperdine’s female scholar-athlete of the year.

Now she’ll see where her basketball career will take her.

“I was trying to think about what I was going to do with my life, just like every other graduate in 2010 and I got an agent and started talking to her. Some teams were interested,” Ayim said. “I wasn’t surprised I wasn’t drafted. Being from a smaller school, not a lot of people know your name. But the Phoenix general manager saw me playing in a tournament and she liked what she saw so she invited me.”

Ayim had options, but she had to make a decision about continuing to play basketball as a career, coming home to London or staying in the United States or going right into a career.

“I wanted to keep all my options open,” she said. “I thought, why not play basketball. Everyone else is looking for jobs and I have a job right in front of me. It would be a pretty good job.”

Ayim is 6-foot-3. Her father Gus is a former Fanshawe Falcons basketball player.

The 21-year-old has a lot of basketball-related options.

She has played with Canadian junior national teams. She was named to the senior development team in 2008. In the summer of 2007, she played in both the under-21 and under-19 FIBA world championships.

Ayim couldn’t play for Canada last summer. She had to work on an internship to graduate. Even though she trained all summer with her trainer and teammates, it was the first time in years she couldn’t play for the national program.

“It’s funny, they just called me (Wednesday) asking about my plans,” Ayim said. “I love the Canadian program and have a lot of ties with it, so it’s not out of picture. But it’s all about the timing and what’s coming up. If I make the Phoenix team, I won’t be playing for Canada. If I don’t make it, then we’ll see about playing overseas.”

She hasn’t been home since Christmas and with all the options she has, she may not be spending much time at home for some time..

Even if professional basketball doesn’t work out, someone with her smarts will find another way to get to the basket.

“It’s a win, win for me. I’m staying in the basketball world for a while. I love the sport. If I don’t make Phoenix, I can go oversea and get experience in the sport. Even if don’t play for a long time, I studied public relations so I can get involved in sport entertainment and I can stay involved in my community.”

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