Huskies star guard Nurse says “hometown game” was a complete surprise

TORONTO — Kia Nurse first noticed some chatter around a potential game in Toronto on Twitter last summer.

Still, when the University of Connecticut Huskies officially announced a Dec. 22 “hometown” game in honour of Nurse, it took the Canadian women’s basketball star by surprise.

“That was kind of an ‘oh my gosh’ moment,” Nurse said. “I remember sending screen shots of it to my family, like ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but this is serious.”’

Nurse and her Huskies face the Duquesne Dukes on Friday at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, normally home to the Ryerson Rams, in game that will showcase the NCAA’s finest women’s team.

For the 21-year-old from Hamilton, it’s a chance to play in front of her family and friends in the Huskies blue and white, and a moment she never saw coming.

“For me, it’s mind-blowing,” Nurse said from Storrs, Conn., earlier this week. “Every college kid usually gets a home game, and I was expecting mine to be maybe in Michigan because it’s kind of close. But I’m so fortunate (my coaches) decided to put it smack dab in the centre of Toronto. My grandparents have never seen me play in a UConn uniform, so it’s really exciting and really special.

“My coaches did it on their own, they scheduled it and didn’t tell me … and it was awesome.”

The Huskies (9-0) are ranked No. 1 in the NCAA, and Nurse is a big reason why. The senior guard is shooting a sizzling 54 per cent from three-point range — second in the NCAA — and was recently two baskets shy of tying the NCAA for consecutive three-pointers. Nurse hit 12 in a row, including going 8-for-8 in a win over Nevada.

“I’ve really put a lot of effort into my three-point shot, and that’s been falling a lot easier for me, so when you have a lot of confidence in your shot, that’s half the battle of trying to get it go in,” Nurse said.

Nurse led Canada to gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games on the same Mattamy Athletic Centre court, and was named Canada’s flag bearer at the Pan Am closing ceremonies.

A capacity crowd of 2,500-plus will watch Friday’s game, and Nurse is excited to showcase the women’s game at the top college level — particularly for the young girls who will in attendance.

“Social media is so different today, you can see all these women’s basketball players, and watch their highlights,” Nurse said. “We didn’t really have that when I was growing up. The only thing they showed on TV at home was the Raptors, a couple NBA games here and there, and then hockey. So, who are you really going to look at?

“My sister (Tamika, nine years her senior) was a big role model for me. I wanted to be just like her, she was really good, she played on the national team, so I knew if I kept following in her footsteps, then some day I might have a chance to do it.”

Nurse was in the seventh grade, she believes, when she saw WNBA star Maya Moore and the Huskies win an NCAA title.

“That was the day where I was like ‘I would love to go to UConn. I don’t think I could do it, but I would love to do that if I could,”’ she said.

Almost a decade later, time has flown by.

“I looked around the other day, and thought ‘I have three months of college basketball left. That’s it. And then I go into the real world.’ I looked at the freshman, and you think you have forever, you really do, and then it just flies.”

Nurse has helped the Huskies capture two NCAA titles. The Huskies are 11-time NCAA champions, but were upset by 66-64 Mississippi State in last season’s Final Four.

Nurse will enter the WNBA draft after this season, then split time between the WNBA and Canada’s women’s team, in its quest for a third consecutive Olympic berth.

Duquesne’s roster features a pair of Canadians in sophomore guards Halle Bovell (Hamilton) and Anie-Pier Samson (Saint-Bruno, Que.).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Nathan Scott’s The Face-off is one of Red Deer’s most recent public artworks. It was installed at Servus Arena. (Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council opts to leave public art selection to a commission

Only projects costing at least $1 million will now trigger art component

Red Deer City Coun. Michael Dawe spoke up about an attempted break-in at his home during a city council meeting that discussed policing priorities. (Advocate file photo).
All crimes should be reported, says Red Deer’s RCMP superintendent

Policing priorities are cracking down on property and drug crimes

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province sat at 4,477 Monday afternoon, up 826 from Friday’s 3,651, said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

Alberta reported 1,440 new COVID-19 cases on Monday from over the weekend,… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three Red Deer based dealerships have donated $10,000 to various local organizations including the food bank. (File Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Red Deer car dealerships help organizations in need

Three Red Deer automobile dealerships have come together to donate $10,000 to… Continue reading

“Our members have decided they just can’t do this anymore. We’ve protected this province and you’ve treated us like dirt, so enough is enough,” says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola, whose members protested outside the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Momday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Updated: Hospital workers strike in Red Deer

Some surgeries and ambulatory care clinics postponed around the province

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill (22) tips a pass in the end zone intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. The ball was caught by Rams safety Taylor Rapp, behind, for a touchback. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )
Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Matthew Raymond, charged with four counts of first degree murder, is taken from provincial court in Fredericton, N.B., on December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe speaks during a press conference in south Regina on Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Moe will appear at a car rally with supporters this afternoon outside of Regina.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Bayern's Alphonso Davies controls the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany on February 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matthias Schrader
Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

Most Read