From 2012-15, Wilfrid Laurier University alumna Lee Anna Osei lead the Laurier women’s basketball team to the playoffs.
Now, in her first year off the Laurier court, Osei was recently named one of the 150 black women who’ve made Canadian history.
Osei talked about what an honour this achievement is for her.
“It’s very humbling. I think it’s a testament to the faith and effort that other people have put into me as opposed to what I’ve done for myself,” she said.
“I’ve had amazing mentors that have been involved in my life for as long as I can remember, whether that’s through basketball, academically through professors, or just community leaders that I hang around. An accomplishment like that definitely transcends everything that I was able to do as an individual.”
Osei works with athletes regardless of their gender identity, age or skill level. She runs an organization called CANLETES (Canadian Athletes), where she trains young and old athletes in basketball and fitness.
Osei’s journey with basketball started at the age of 12.
“At a young age, I was taught everything about books and basketball. It gave me something to do, living in the Jane and Finch area, that didn’t require me getting in trouble or hanging out in places I didn’t want to. I hold that thought dear to me. It’s a game that has changed my life,” Osei said.
Since retiring, Osei has chosen to give back to the community by teaching and training.
“Now I use it as a tool to teach the up-and-coming generation. I also hope to impact the lives around me in general. I work with young kids, teenagers, professionals. Right now I’m training one of our Canadian national team athletes who also plays in the WNBA. I think it’s amazing how far my passion for the game can get me,” she said.
With Osei’s talent, she could’ve picked any university for her post-secondary education. But she chose to come to Laurier, mainly due to the athletic atmosphere and culture.
When asked to comment on her success at Laurier, Osei gave a lot of credit to her teammates and coaches.
“I was excited for the opportunity to play CIS basketball and basketball in the OUA. Laurier has one of the best athletic cultures because of the people running the programs. Right away I got that family feel and because of my passion for the game, I took that and I said I want to help this team accomplish great things. We were able to break records and make some history.”
While her time at Laurier was positive, Osei had a tough start to her Laurier career due to a personal tragedy. The team, however, showed their support before Osei even began her career with the Hawks.
I get satisfaction from being able the help the athletes I work with to accomplish their goals.
– Lee Anna Osei/former Laurier basketball player
“One of the things I’ll always remember is the summer of 2012. I got accepted to Laurier, but I had yet to make my decision. My brother passed away and I had yet to meet the whole team. But the entire team and the head coach came to the funeral. That was the moment I knew I was going to Laurier. It was one of the best decisions I ever made because over the course of three years it helped me grow and develop not only as an athlete, but as a person,” she said.
Osei was not only an outstanding athlete, she was also a great student. She was a three time CIS Academic All-Canadian and was on the dean’s list.
Osei’s road to success has been anything but easy; she’s worked hard to overcome obstacles and achieve her goals. She explained that she starts most days before 6:00 a.m. to start training and then works from 9-5 at the Jane and Finch boys and girls club. She concludes her day by going back to the gym.
“For me, an average day is not average unless I’m doing something with basketball. It’s weird if I go a day without touching a ball or being on the court or watching the game.”
Currently, Osei is coaching a grade eight boys team, the North Toronto Organization girls team in the summer, and is an assistant coach for the under 17 Ontario girls basketball team.
“I think the most exciting thing for me is that I’m not just working with kids, I’m working with everybody. Whether it’s a pro or someone who’s just starting the game, I feel like there’s a lot I can give to the athlete and their family,” she said.
Osei mentioned that her passion for the game of basketball is the main source of how she gets her motivation.
“I get satisfaction from being able to help the athletes I work with to accomplish their goals. To be able to communicate at a level that makes sense in terms of talking about where the sport can take you. Whether your goal is to gain a scholarship or whether it’s to gain some confidence and come out of your shell,” Osei added.
Osei’s recognition as one of the 150 black women to make Canadian history is a proud moment not just for her and her family, but for Laurier. She is an inspiration for the Laurier community, young girls and also the Canadian basketball community as a whole.