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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Success runs in the family of UConn's Kia Nurse

When the members of the UConn women's basketball team gathered around a television set the belief was they were going to continue with their Harry Potter viewing marathon. However, freshman Kia Nurse had other ideas.

Nurse normally defers to her older teammates when it comes to dominating control of the remote control channel changer but not on this night. She quickly tuned into the NHL Network and on this night she was not about to see that channel get changed not with her brother Darnell set for the opportunity of a lifetime as a member of the host Canadian team playing in the gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

Kia Nurse's teammates might not know what was more entertaining, the spellbinding end to end action in the third period of a classic final between Canada and Russia or their normally cool as a cucumber screaming uncontrollably at the TV set each time Russia seemed to be on the verge of tying the game. Usually it was Darnell Nurse, a rock-solid defenseman, who helped to relieve whatever pressure the Russian team was bringing. He was named Canada's Player of the Game in the 5-4 win and one of the top three players in the tournament for a team winning gold for the first time since 2009. The announcers mentioned that Nurse was not on the ice for an even-strength goal by an opposing team in the seven games which is a staggering accomplishment.

"He was fantastic and I kept yelling 'if you are tired get off the ice,'" Kia Nurse said. "I just screamed at the TV all the time but he was amazing, he would shut down anybody who came his way. I couldn't be any happier for him. I was yelling and screaming, I was close to tears. They were making fun of me but it was my brother.

"The national team has always been a real big part of our family and really taking pride in that. He had a chip on his shoulder from last year when he got cut from that team. He worked hard each and every day and worked hard every day after that and it shows. There is not a person in this world more deserving than that."

It's been quite a whirlwind last several months for the parents of Kia and Darnell Nurse. Kia was a starting guard for a Canadian team which had a surprising fifth-place finish at the FIBA World Championship for Women and now it was big brother's turn to represent his country with incredible distinction.

"They were really contemplating leaving the World Juniors to come to the Madison Square Garden game (against St. John's) and I told them they should stay, he gets that (chance) once in a lifetime," Kia Nurse said. "They were there, my sister, my aunts, uncles, grandparents and I saw them on TV ecstatic, just going crazy.

"It is amazing. We have to thank (her parents) for everything they do, the sacrifices that they have made. It is special to play for your national team and he killed it.

"We do talk a lot about it, I send him good luck texts almost every single game and we say do it for your country, do it for your family and do it for yourself."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has recruiting players from athletic families before but he would be hard pressed to find one that can rival the Nurse family. Dad Richard played in the CFL, aunt Raquel Nurse played basketball at Syracuse (where she met her husband Donovan McNabb, who went onto star with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles) and sister Tamika played on the Canadian junior national team in 2004 and 2005, helping Canada to a ninth-place finish in the FIBA U-19 World Championships in 2005.

"I think that is pretty remarkable when you think about it," Auriemma said. "She is young and he is young and they have had a lot of success at a young age. Their family is pretty well put together, they have their heads screwed on straight; they have their priorities in order. They have managed to really keep things in perspective. I am not surprised that he has had great success because everyone expected him to be really, really good from the time he was a young player. You don't get drafted that high in the NHL draft (Darnell Nurse was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft) if you are not somebody who is pretty special. You don't get to play on your national junior team when you are still (a teenager).

"I have seen it on both ends. On the father's end it happens a lot, on the mother's side it happens. I think it is more prevalent on the girls side if their father was an athlete and then you get 50/50 on those guys. Some of those guys are great to deal with because they understand how hard it is to be in that situation and the others can be difficult to deal with because they think they know more about the game than anybody else. That is a family that is very competitive and from the father down to the youngest, they have all experienced great success and I am not surprised at all. Kids take on certain personalities, we are pretty fortunate that the kids that we get have the personalities that you want to coach depending on what kind of expectations they have for themselves."

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