Hailing from Sudbury, Ontario, Canadian sensation Syla Swords is one of the newest additions to Michigan’s 2024-25 roster. With family ties in the game, basketball has always been a part of the 6-0, 17-year-old forward’s DNA. The Swords family is synonymous with Canadian basketball, and even after leaving Canada for the Big Apple, Syla knows where home is.
“Every time I get on the floor, I know I’m representing a country, even now in high school and [playing] American ball. I’m still known as the Canadian guard…[I’m] representing something bigger than [myself],” she says.
Swords’ parents, Shelley and Shawn, played basketball at Laurentian University in Ontario, with Shawn continuing to play professionally until he was offered a spot as Laurentian University’s head coach.
Swords credits her parents for introducing both her and her younger sister, Savannah, to basketball early on. “Going to my dad’s practices—that was the way he would babysit us,” she says. Though Swords recognizes that her family had a huge impact on her passion for basketball, her love for the game was something she developed on her own. “It’s a passion and it’s not like it’s not a job, which is something [my parents have] been really keen on putting into our minds,” she continues. “When we finally got the chance to join our first team, it was a no-brainer. Our role models were basketball players.”
After verbally committing to Michigan last May, she’s keeping her eyes on the prize, which right now means leading her Long Island Lutheran basketball team to the top of the rankings.
After her father was offered a position as the associate head coach for the Long Island Nets in August, the Swords family packed up and headed to New York, where the sisters started hooping at Long Island Lutheran High School. “We had no idea about anything New York City coming in from a small town in Northern Ontario,” she says.
Though her end goal has always been following in her father’s footsteps by representing Canada in the Olympics, Syla’s immediate goals are slightly more representative of your ordinary high school senior. “I’m planning on majoring in business [at Michigan]…so I’m just finishing up my essays right now to submit next week,” she says. “That’s been number one on my list.”
When she’s not hooping or working on her Common App, you can find Swords crushing the competition (her family) in games of Catan during family game nights. Because at the end of the day, it’s always been about family. As she enters her last season of playing high school basketball with her sister, Swords reflects on the importance of having family on her side on the court.
“It’s been amazing having a built-in best friend, a built-in training partner,” Syla says. “I always say we’re each other’s biggest competitors, but we’re also each other’s biggest supporters.”
Until her debut at Michigan, Swords is working on taking her game to the next level by becoming more shifty, establishing herself quickly on her first step and improving her reads of the defense. When speaking about any concerns for her collegiate career and beyond, Swords knows it won’t be easy. But Ontario’s very own is no stranger to change.
“Of course, I’m going to fail at different things,” she says, “but I’m just excited to get myself into that environment.” One of Swords role models is Seattle Storm point guard and fellow Canadian, Kia Nurse. “She’s where I want to be in the next 10-15 years. Just growing up, watching her do what she’s done for Team Canada, it’s been really fun. Hopefully I can follow her path.”
Photos by Marcus Stevens.