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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nurse has business to take care of before heading to UConn

Kia Nurse found it downright hilarious that she will take the court twice as an opponent of Geno Auriemma's before she suits up for the UConn Hall of Fame coach.

Nurse had two points as her Canada squad fell to the Auriemma-coached United States team on Sunday at Webster Bank Arena. Tomorrow night she will be back on the court again when the U.S. and Canada meet in an international friendly at 7 p.m.

"Playing against Coach (Auriemma) before playing for him always makes me laugh but it is just a great experience," Nurse said. "We are really lucky to be here and I am glad it is in Connecticut."

Being in Connecticut and seeing six current or former Huskies among the 17 U.S. players taking part in the scrimmage and exhibition game only increases Nurse's excitement for her future. So what is awaiting her in Storrs. Well, former UConn point guard Sue Bird has a pretty good idea.

"Everything is probably your fault even if it is not so just be ready for that, the advice I would give her," Bird said.

"It is extremely valuable. It wasn't until I played overseas that I understood what that was like (to play overseas) so to start at a young age I think it is cool for her."


Auriemma has seemingly experienced just about everything in his time calling the shots at UConn but he does not recall coaching against one of his players before they suited up for the Huskies for the first time.

"Very unique," Auriemma said, "I don't remember it ever happening. We haven't had a lot of international players to begin with so she is going to be in a very unique situation.

"Kia, she is trying to assimilate herself into that team and she is going to have to come back and assimilate herself to our team, it is a lot for a young player."

Another aspect of her hectic schedule this summer training with the Canadian national team in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Championship for Women is the amount of time she is going to spend away from school.

She was able to spend a few days on campus during the summer session and recently was at UConn for about a week in between her national-team commitments. Still, she feels pretty good about keeping up academically.

"I am actually doing pretty well with it," Nurse said. "I keep up with my agenda each and every day and I knew exactly what class I am doing and which readings I am doing that day so I have been really good at that and basing it on my schedule and my online classes so I have been keeping up pretty well. My academic advisors are in touch with me all the time and that is really helpful."

Even though her time on campus has been brief, she already has the feeling that it is the perfect place for her.

"I went to UConn because my best interests were in mind there and I wanted to be the best player I could be," Nurse said. "I am really striving for that. I am blessed for the opportunity to work for Coach Auriemma and the staff. I think I am going to try to bring my competitive fire and love for the game."

She has had some time to get to know fellow freshmen Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark and Gabby Williams while on campus.

"We are right beside each other, neighbors in our dorms and they are all really dedicated basketball players," Nurse said. "They want to be great, they decided to go to UConn for a reason and our dedication is definitely something that is similar for all of us.

"When I went there for the week, I loved it and I didn't want to leave. I can't wait to get back with the girls and practicing with them it is going to be exciting."

Nurse didn't have to guard her future UConn teammate Breanna Stewart, which is vying for a spot on the U.S. team looking to win its second straight world title but the did cross paths every once in a while.

"I was just hoping she wouldn't block me," Nurse said. "I knew I wasn't going to have to guard her and I am OK with that. It is definitely fun to be playing with some of the old UConn players."

She immediately found herself guarding reigning WNBA scoring champion Maya Moore, UConn's all-time leading scorer after checking into the scrimmage midway through the first quarter.

"I started out on her," Nurse said. "I have point guard (defensive assignments) and I was really confused. That was really fun, that was a really good experience. I got to play against her and she is an insane player so that was pretty cool."

Trying to guard one of the world's most gifted offensive players before playing a single college game might be frightening for some people but the fact that Nurse viewed it as "cool" provides a glimpse into the competitive fire burning inside of her.

"I like her energy," said UCLA junior guard Nirra Fields, also a member of the Canadian national team. "She is an energy giver. Her young spirit always brings everyone up and having her in the mix just makes everyone energetic."

Canada national team coach Lisa Thomaidis is no stranger to the Nurse family as she was a former teammate of Nurse's mother.

"She is a great athlete but she is still very inexperienced at the international level," Thomaidis said.

So what does Thomaidis like about Nurse's game?

"Her flat out speed and she has good length as a point guard, she is almost 6-feet, she is very fast," Thomaidis said. "Over the past year she can put on some muscle so she is not just this lanky kid, she is more like a mature athlete.

"She definitely wants to score which is great so we are working on the other side which is that vision,"

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