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When Jordin Canada is on the court, there's magic in the air

ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

The Los Angeles Windward point guard sets the pace for the 21-0 team with her exceptional play, relentless work ethic and competitive drive.

January 27, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

It's supposed to be the year of the point guard in boys' basketball in Southern California, with multiple players in contention for who's best. But in girls' basketball, there's one standard for excellence, and that's 5-foot-6 junior Jordin Canada of Los Angeles Windward.

She's the best not just in California but maybe in the nation for what she does — control the ball and direct her team to victories. Windward is 21-0 and twice has beaten Southern Section 1AA powerhouse Long Beach Poly.

Vanessa Nygaard, Windward's first-year coach and a former WNBA player, said, "I would pay to see this high school kid play."

Her former coach at Windward, Steve Smith, said, "She's a cross between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson."

The boys' coach at Windward, Miguel Villegas, said, "I've never seen anyone like her. She's so determined."

When Canada gets a frown, that's when she's most dangerous. It means her fierce competitiveness has kicked in. Her expertise in dribbling the ball has forced top teams that rely on a full-court press to abandon their strategy. And when she teams with USC-bound Courtney Jaco, it gives Windward one of the best guard duos in girls' basketball.

Most of the top college programs in the nation have been recruiting Canada, who mentions USC, California, Stanford, Connecticut and Tennessee as her top five candidates heading into signing day next November.

She said she started playing basketball when she was 6 and remembers a not-so-brilliant beginning.

"The first day of practice, I was really bad," she said. "I couldn't make layups, couldn't shoot free throws or anything. Ever since, I've been working hard, practicing and making sure I perfected what I wanted to do. There's something about the sport I just love."

She let everyone know she was no ordinary freshman two years ago, when she made a three-point shot from the top of the key at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento with less than a minute to go to help Windward win the state Division IV championship.

Put the ball in her hands and magical things happen.

"She's an exceptional ballhandler, which you don't see much in the women's game," Nygaard said. "She handles the ball like a real good men's player, has incredible quickness and plays real hard."

She has become such an influential person on campus that middle-school students study and emulate her.

"It's very fun knowing that kids in middle school look up to me in being a good role model for them," Canada said.

Canada's work ethic and willingness to listen and never stop trying to improve are qualities that aid her in a pursuit to excel.

"I don't let it fill my head too much," she said of her growing legion of fans. "I'm not a cocky person. I'm very humble. I know there's days somebody's out there working hard and training harder than me, and I just want to be the person to work harder."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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