Bruins’ Saunders makes OCAA history



Through hard work, perseverance and dedication to her craft, Shylanda Saunders has become one of the greatest players in Ontario women’s college basketball history.

Saunders, over her four years at Sheridan, has accomplished what few have. She is only the sixth female player in OCAA basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. All while keeping a 4.0 grade average in school.

By all accounts, Saunders has earned the label of a “road scholar.”

Born and raised in East Preston, Nova Scotia, a small rural area near Halifax, Saunders was noticed at a young age for her athletic ability.

Growing up, she was enrolled in ballet and tap dancing, as well as playing soccer and basketball.

“Soccer, tap and ballet helped me out a lot athletically. Especially with my agility, quickness and footwork on the basketball court,” Saunders said.

Her grace on the court was not only noticed in Canada, but the United States as well.

“I started to get recognized for my talents in Grade 8 and got recruited to play at Oak Hill Academy, a high-level prep school in the state of Virginia,” Saunders said.

Known for producing star NBA players, such as the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and the Detroit Pistons’ Brandon Jennings, Oak Hill was the perfect place for her to develop her skills.

With the prep school, she travelled across the U.S. to play. This helped her gain a sense of self-dependence at a very young age.

Saunders also played for a year at the University of Prince Edward Island. After that experience, she decided to attend Sheridan because of its academic and athletic reputation.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Nova Scotia native.

“Growing up playing basketball, I tried out for many teams and many times I didn’t make it,” Saunders said. “I was told, ‘You aren’t good enough or tall enough.’ ” But comments like those would only drive her to work harder.

“When I first saw her, she could handle the ball, pass very well and worked hard for her teammates,” said Willie Delas, Sheridan women’s basketball head coach. “I told her she had to learn how to score in order for the team to be successful.”

She developed the work ethic to become a scorer by following her mother’s example.

“My mother was a single mom of two who worked hard to make sure that my sister and I always had what we needed. She taught me how to be strong, independent and to set goals for myself,” Saunders said.

“Shylanda is a fantastic leader. She leads not vocally, but by example on and off the court. She does everything she can for the team, whether she is hurt or not,” Delas said.

Saunders considers her mom to be a hugely influential person in her life.

“She is every bit the reason why I’m the woman I am today. Some people would consider celebrities and sports figures their heroes, but mine is my amazing mother,” Saunders said.

When asked how it felt to be one of only six players to score 1,000 points, Saunders said, “It’s kind of weird. But, that being said, it is pretty cool and humbling at the same time. I can’t wait to see more women join the 1,000 club.”

Currently in her third year of the Child and Youth Worker program, Saunders wishes to return her good fortune and hard work to the youth of tomorrow as a basketball coach.

“I would love to coach. In some way, shape or form, I always want to be involved with basketball throughout my life,” Saunders said.

Saunders will always be welcomed back after she graduates from Sheridan.

“Definitely, there is always going to be a special place at Sheridan for her, she will always be a Bruin,” Delas said.