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How Jama Bin-Edward left a legacy at TMU

By Todd Ash-Duah

Jama Bin-Edward simply couldn’t be stopped. 

On Jan. 15, 2020, the then third-year basketball guard for the Ryerson Rams, now the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold, women’s basketball team,  left her footprints all over the court against the Waterloo Warriors.

With family and friends in attendance to watch her play in her hometown, she scored 21 points in the first half alone, giving the Rams a commanding 24-point lead. This was business as usual for Bin-Edward.

“She was playing at such an incredibly high level at the time,” said now TMU assistant coach Stefanija Mrvaljevic, who played with Bin-Edward on the women’s basketball team from 2017 to 2022. “She was playing so well in every possible way.”

But then, calamity struck. Midway through the third quarter against the Warriors, Bin-Edward, while running in transition, leaped in the air to catch a pass from then point guard Hayley Robertson. It was a routine play the two frequently connected on, yet when Bin-Edward caught the pass, she slipped and fell awkwardly on the court. 

“You could feel all of the life suck out of the gym”

She initially thought she had dislocated her knee. “I looked down and everything looked straight, but deep inside, I knew something was wrong.”

The fans and players alike—including Mrvaljevic—grew quiet as Bin-Edward was on the floor in visible pain. 

“You could feel all of the life suck out of the gym,” said Mrvaljevic.

Despite her clear injury, Bin-Edward reassured her teammates that she would be just fine.

Robertson, who played with her from 2018 to 2020, said the sentiment shared by Bin-Edward was to not worry and focus on the game. 

“Sometimes, you don’t get that with star players or people with that level of talent…she’s very humble and down to earth,” said Robertson.

The next day at the sports clinic, Bin-Edward received the news—she had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, along with two other major knee injuries.

TMU women’s basketball head coach Carly Clarke was “heartbroken” after the diagnosis. 

“We all knew how much Jama meant to our team, on and off the court,” she said.

  • Jama Bin-Edward jumps in celebration
  • Jama Bin-Edward and her teammates hold the Critelli Cup
  • Jama Bin-Edward shoots the basketball
  • Members of the then-Ryerson Rams wear championship hats
  • Jama Bin-Edward posts up against a defender

Bin-Edward is the eldest child of a first-generation immigrant family. Her parents immigrated to Canada from South Sudan in 1998 and had an interest in one particular sport—basketball. As a result, she grew up playing the sport and she found success on the court during her high school days—leading to her being a highly sought-after recruit in early 2017.

She would ultimately decide to play her university basketball career at what was then Ryerson. 

She attributed her choice to the allure of playing at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, joining a team that had won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Critelli Cup just two seasons prior and the calibre of coaching she would receive from Clarke. Bin-Edward knew there was going to be a “level of excellence” that Clarke brought to the table. 

“I knew that would make me want to be a better player,” she said.

Mrvaljevic first met Bin-Edward in May 2017. She instantly realized that there was something special about her fellow first-year teammate.

“Right off the bat, you could tell that her personality shines,” said Mrvaljevic. “She’s really positive and friendly. I immediately knew that I was going to enjoy having her as a teammate.”

Robertson, who transferred to the Rams during the fall of 2018, noticed Bin-Edward’s character regularly stood out.

“She’s dynamic and she’s ultra-competitive, but in a fluid, graceful way,” said Robertson. “She’s an overall complete player and she always did it with positive, uplifting energy.”

The 2019-20 season was when Bid-Edward’s university basketball career began to flourish. She averaged 14.6 points, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game while also leading the team in field goal percentage. 

“She gave everything she had to others”

“There was a certain level of focus that I had in practices and games,” said Bin-Edward. “I think we were slowly beginning to peak as a team.”

That year, the Rams fell just short of capturing their second Critelli Cup in five seasons. Although Bin-Edward missed the final stretch of the campaign due to her injury, her teammates could still feel her joyful and optimistic presence brimming on the sidelines.

Mrvaljevic said from the moment Bin-Edward was sidelined she still brought the most energy and continued to be herself.

“She gave everything she had to others, even though she was struggling with what she was going through. The way she poured into everybody else was so selfless.”  

Bin-Edward returned during a road win over the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks on Nov. 27, 2021. With a knee brace on her left leg during her 12 minutes of action, she was exhilarated to finally be back on the court with her teammates—682 days after her injury. 

The Rams went undefeated that regular season and were considered the favourite to win the Critelli Cup and the U Sports national championship. But to claim each prize, they had to go through a talented Brock Badgers team twice. 

The Rams came out victorious in overtime in both games. During their second matchup in the U Sports national tournament semi-finals, they were led by Bin-Edward, who scored seven of the team’s 10 overtime points.

  • Jama Bin-Edward claps on the bench
  • Jama Bin-Edward and her teammates hold the Critelli Cup
  • Jama Bin-Edward high-fives her teammates as her name gets announced
  • Jama Bin-Edward yells from the bench
  • Jama Bin-Edward holds the basketball

“It’s funny because I had an interview after the game and they told me that I had scored the first five points of that overtime and I had no idea,” Bin-Edward laughed. “Willing the ball through the net is really what’s going through my mind. It’s the focus that I had in those moments.”

Bin-Edward was awarded U Sports national tournament most valuable player for her play during the event—her final appearance as a player. 

“There’s no other feeling but complete joy in that moment,” she said. “All of the hard work, battling with [my teammates] and my coaches just kind of all culminated in the perfect ending.”

Less than two years later, Bin-Edward sat on a chair and quickly scribbled something down on her clipboard as the Bold took on the York Lions.

Bin-Edward, currently in her first year as an assistant coach for the TMU women’s basketball team, is adjusting from player to coach.

“I’m starting to see the whole picture,” said Bin-Edward. “As a player, you’re still seeing things, but not at the same analytical level than as a coach.”

Still, TMU lead assistant coach Shae Dheensaw said Bin-Edward has “remained the same.”

“She was a positive role model as a player and she’s stayed true to that as a coach,” she said. 

Even though Bin-Edward isn’t immediately looking to become a bench boss, she has already left a lasting impact at the university—on and off the court.

“At TMU, we always talk about leaving a legacy,” said Clarke. “And I think Jama has done just that.”

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