Miranda Ayim, the Canadian forward currently playing for French club Basket Landes, is not the type to draw attention to herself, but Parlons Basket Féminin couldn’t resist asking her a few questions, given that she’s surely one of the most intriguing and articulate players currently taking part in the French league. So, one day before her team takes on Bourges at home, in an attempt to stay alive in the end-of-season playoffs, here’s what she had to say about basketball, life and desert islands…
Parlons-Basket : Miranda, tell us a little about your background: what has been the road from Chatham, Ontario in Canada, where you were born, to playing for Basket Landes in south-west France?
Miranda Ayim : I grew up in the lovely city of London, Ontario. At the age of 18, I accepted a basketball scholarship to Pepperdine University in Malibu, Canada and played there for four years before turning pro and heading overseas. I started my career in Turkey, staying for three years and playing in three different cities (Alanya, Istanbul, Ordu) before heading to France. I played two years in Toulouse and then came to the small but charming city of Mont-de-Marsan to play with Basket Landes. I’ve been here for two seasons so far.
PB : And given that your parents were both involved in the game, was it natural for you to become involved in basketball or did you ever rebel against that?
MA : My family is sporty and outdoorsy in general; so while playing basketball wasn’t necessarily a given, being active was. I played many different sports growing up and had a love affair with volleyball before settling on basketball in my junior year of high school.
PB : Were you always equally focussed on intellectual pursuits and sports? You seem to have been extremely successful at combining the two (being named as Division 1 AAA women’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the year as a college senior for example, graduating cum laude in Public Relations etc.) but has it been harder than it looks from the outside?
MA : This is another area where my parents were a big influence on me growing up: they take delight in learning. One of their preferred pastimes is curling up with a good book, so it was natural for me to replicate that. I think I was good at school when I was younger mainly because I never wanted to disappoint my parents or my teachers, but there was always a curiosity there. After I graduated university and said goodbye to structured education, I found my passion for learning increased ten-fold because the subject matter became anything I wanted it to be. There’s so much to see and hear and learn in this world and exploring that is exhilarating.
PB : And as we can see from your blog (mirandaayim.com), you still take a keen interest in books and the world of ideas – do you find that makes you somewhat eccentric as a professional athlete or do you feel able to include this side of yourself in your dealings with your teammates for example? Do you feel able to express your intellectual interests within the milieu of professional basketball?
MA : I understand that it’s a bit weird to have a thick book on the subject matter of, say, the influence of economic knowledge on voting tendencies rather than the latest TV series but it’s what floats my boat. I think we become more “eccentric” with age because we tend to stop caring what people think. That’s not to say I never binge on a Netflix series from time to time, however. I have found that professional athletes – often the best of the best – are incredibly intelligent and have made it to this level as a result. I’ve met many an artist, poet, musician, philosopher, or scientist disguised as an athlete.
PB : To what extent do you apply your intellectual training to your sporting career? Does it make it easier for you to keep both sporting disappointments and triumphs in perspective, perhaps?
MA : The tendency to regard everything through a philosophical lens surely has its benefits. It enables me to put things into perspective; from a disagreement on the court to disappointment with personal play to the loss of a game.
PB : And if we could talk a little bit about Canadian basketball. How come there are so darn many of you (the Plouffe sisters, Lizanne Murphy, Shona Thorburn) playing in France for a start?! Is it accident or design?
MA : I’ll add Kim (Smith) Gaucher, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and Kayla Alexander to that list (thanks Miranda!!) and, yes, we are taking over France one foreign import at a time. It all started with Lizanne Murphy, I believe. She has been playing here the longest. Between word of mouth and simply wanting to play in a beautiful country like France, we’ve all ended up here.
PB : And in terms of the Canadian national team – you enjoyed a very successful season in 2015 with wins in both the FIBA Americas Tournament and the Pan-American Games. Was it then a disappointment to lose (a very tight) game to France in the Olympic quarter-final?
MA : It’s always a disappointment to fall short of your goals and we had some lofty, yet achievable, ones set for Rio. We had great momentum after the summer of 2015 and the preparation just before the Olympics in 2016. Unfortunately, our achievements prior to Rio cannot be taken into account. It doesn’t matter that we had already beaten France twice that same summer. That’s basketball: you’ve got to perform when it’s required and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.
PB : And what international competitions will you be involved in this summer ?
MA : This year is the FIBA Americas (now called the AmeriCup) which will be hosted in Argentina.
PB : If we turn to your current club Basket Landes – how has the season been for you? After an excellent start to the season you were plagued by injuries to major players (yourself and Queralt Casas etc). What goes through your mind when stuff like this happens? How do you manage to pull things together and look forward?
MA : It’s tough when your team is plagued with events that are completely out of your control. The only thing you can do is focus on getting healthy as efficiently as possible and work with what you’ve got!
PB : Can you tell us a little bit about Nevena Jovanovic (who was kind enough to answer some questions for us a few months ago) – has it been easy for her to fit in with the rest of the team at a relatively late stage of the season?
MA : Nevena quickly fit in with our team. It feels like she’s been with us the entire season. She’s a great player, teammate and person.
PB : Regarding your elimination from EuroCup this season: how big a disappointment was that for the club? Did you expect to go further?
MA : It was a disappointment and a surprise after our results last season. It hurts a bit to go from the semi-finals last year to not qualifying for the second round this year. We certainly expected to go further after the start to the season we had.
PB : You finished 5th in the regular season and lost home advantage for the Playoffs by a one point point-average. Bourges came out on top last Saturday – how are you approaching the return game at Mont-de-Marsan this weekend?
MA : That seems to be the theme of the season: close but no cigar. We’ve lost several games by a 3-point margin. However, we are aiming to turn that on its head with the next game versus Bourges in our home gym this Saturday.
PB : You’ve been playing in France for four years now. If you had to describe life in France in three words what would they be?
MA : Very good wine.
PB : There’s a well-known radio programme in the UK called Desert Island Discs – I don’t know if you’re aware of it. I’m going to shamelessly steal some of their questions…if you found yourself someday on a desert island and were allowed one book, one record and one film to take with you, what would they be? You’re also allowed one luxury (but not a boat to escape the island!!)…what’s it going to be?
MA : If I had to watch one film forever, it might as well be one I’ve already watched a hundred times: Sister Act 2 (only winning by a hair over The Sound of Music). Since I’ve already taken care of the upbeat music requisite with my movie choice, I’ll go with “Tracy Chapman: Greatest Hits” for the record choice. Can my luxury be to bring a huge library filled with books? Killing two birds with one stone…
ARE YOU MORE…
PB : Films or TV series/ box sets ?
MA : Films. I really enjoy French cinematography.
PB : Mountains or sea ?
MA : Sea. It’s so soothing.
PB : iOS or Android ?
MA : Android. I love my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but I was ride-or-die Blackberry for years.
PB : Orange juice, tea, coffee or something a little stronger ?
MA : Water. Tea. Wine. That’s pretty much all I drink.
PB : Twitter, Facebook or Instagram ?
MA : Instagram
About the other guys …
PB : Can I ask you a slightly bizarre but hopefully devilishly amusing question? If your teammates were literary figures, who would they be?!
MA : I read almost exclusively non-fiction so I unfortunately have no witty correlations to make in this area.
PB : Who’s the funniest ?
MA : Julie Barennes – classic class clown
PB : Who’s the biggest geek ?
MA : I think I’ve claimed that title.
PB : Who struggles most to get up in the mornings ?
MA : Well, the roommate combination that is usually the last to breakfast on the road is Julie Barennes and Céline Dumerc.
PB : The best at getting a rise out of the others ?
MA : Cierra Bravard, but in the best of ways. She usually has us laughing in the end.
And back to you…and to hopefully finish on a light note…
PB : What would you like your epitaph to be? (Perhaps not quite so light then…)
MA : I’ve never thought about that actually…I don’t have a good answer for that at the moment.
PB : If your life were a movie, which one would it be ?
MA : That’s yet to be seen…
PB : What’s your motto?
MA : My mantra is BALANCE. My motto is a quote by George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans): “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” It’s a subtle word play with deep truth behind it.
PB : I know it’s corny but…imagine there’s a young Miranda Ayim out there right now reading these very words…what advice have you got for her?
MA : I’ve been asked this question often over the years and my response remains the same: Be confident and be yourself. We all bring something different to the game – and to life in general – so don’t waste your time trying to be someone else. Find what you do well, hone it, and own it.
The Parlons Basket Féminin team would like to thank Miranda for very generously taking the time to talk to us and wish her the very best for the future.