By: Holly MacKenzie

EDMONTON, AB. (November 16, 2019) - Kia Nurse was in Australia a week ago. After being leading scorer for the WNBL University of Canberra Capitals in a pair of wins before the league broke for a two-week FIBA window, Nurse had a 26-hour travel day back to Edmonton, Canada and then three practices with the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team. On Thursday, Nurse was the leading scorer again; this time scoring a game-high 28 points in Team Canada’s 110-53 victory over Cuba in the team’s first game of the tournament.

Nurse scored her 28 points in just 23 minutes, shooting 9-for-17 from the floor, including 4-for-11 from beyond the arc and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. She added two rebounds, three assists and two steals as she was a game-best +38 in the victory.

After leading the team, rather than revel in her own big night, Nurse’s focus was on the team performance that saw 11 players score and five players reach double figures. “That’s great for us,” Nurse said of the balance on the stat sheet. “I think it just makes us harder to scout, for teams to come in and see how many threats we have on offence. It’s going to be huge for us just in terms of allowing us to continue each and every day to get better while knowing it can be anybody’s night to go off.”

This is Nurse’s second season playing in Australia during the WNBA offseason. She won a WNBL championship with the UC Capitals last season and is off to a great start this year, averaging a league-best 20.3 points per game. Despite a packed basketball schedule, when the opportunity arose to return home and represent Canada, she didn’t hesitate. In addition to getting extra time in with national team teammates, Nurse takes her opportunity as a role model for young girls in sport very seriously. The opportunity to lace up at home isn’t taken lightly.

“I’m extremely fortunate to be in the situation I’m in,” Nurse said. “For me it’s a responsibility, but also a challenge and something I’m really, really excited to be a part of. Continuing to understand those young women that are looking up to me, and being able to put my best foot forward and make sure that everything I do with women’s basketball here, whether it’s making sure we play on Canadian soil, or we play good, or the AAU program I run, that these kids have opportunities to continue to see female athletes at their best and think, ‘That’s what I can do one day.’ If we get one kid to pick up a basketball and play it and love it and learn all the life skills from it then I feel like I've done a good job in my career.”

Nurse has been around sports for as long as she can remember. With a father who played in the CFL and a mother who was a university basketball player, sports have always been a part of her life. Her older brother is a professional hockey player, while her older sister also played basketball and she is the niece of former NFL player Donovan McNabb and Syracuse basketball star Raquel Nurse.

“I’m really, really fortunate to have been surrounded by the people I have growing up,” she said. “Having so many professional athletes in my family, being the baby of it all probably was one of the best things for me because everyone has already been in that situation once or twice. I can just call them and say, ‘How did you deal with this or how did you deal with that?’.”

While Nurse has had a support system to help navigate her career as a professional athlete, she knows it isn’t this way for everyone. In today’s world of constant content, she aims to give aspiring athletes motivation through her actions as well as her words.

“I think now, in the world of social media that we live in, that’s probably the toughest part about it,” she said. “Making sure that what you put out, what the kids are seeing, is something that allows them to feel confident in what they do and allows them to understand that they can do this too.”

An added bonus of the FIBA Women’s Olympic Pre-Qualifying tournament taking place in Edmonton is that it means Nurse’s family will be on hand. With Nurse being so far away and 16 hours ahead while in Australia, this will also serve as an opportunity to see loved ones before she returns to the Capitals where she will be spending her Christmas holiday.

Also on her mind is the opportunity that lies ahead for Canada Basketball. Entering the tournament ranked a program-best 4th in the world, Nurse only wants more.

“I think the best part about basketball is on any given day it’s anybody’s day to win a game,” she said. “For us, I think we understand, as athletes being from around the world, [when] we put our best foot forward it’s going to be tough to beat us on any given day. That’s why we come here, every time that we have to, every time we have an opportunity to put Canada across our chest, it’s a no-brainer, because that’s what we do.”

Despite less than desirable travel details and the juggling of logistics to return home, Nurse and her fellow Team Canada teammates want to be on the floor representing their country whenever they can. With a 28-point performance in the tournament opener under her belt, Nurse is now ready to keep things moving full steam ahead.

“I took a nice nap,” Nurse said of arriving in Edmonton after that 26-hour travel day. When asked why she wanted to return to Canada despite the long trip back, she shrugged off the question with ease. 

“I like playing basketball,” she said. “Why not?”