Growing up in Canada, UConn senior Kia Nurse didn’t dream of being the next Maya Moore or Diana Taurasi. She didn’t dream of hitting the game-winning shot in a big game. She didn’t dream of cutting down the nets in April. Nurse simply dreamt of being like her big sister, Tamika.
“When I started I just wanted to be my sister, that was it,” Nurse said. “She was the biggest and brightest star in the world because didn’t really have the social media to see the people like Maya Moore on our Twitter feeds. We didn’t have ESPN that much and women’s basketball wasn’t always on.”
However, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. Tamika not only played basketball at Oregon and Bowling Green, she saw action with the Canadian National Team as well.
To start, Kia needed to play Division I. And from an early age, Kia had her eyes set on one program: UConn.
“When I was in seventh grade and I wrote that I wanted to go to UConn on my little dream chart that I had for my class,” Nurse said.
And for a while, that’s all playing at UConn was for Nurse: A dream. In fact, the Huskies weren’t even on her radar for much of her recruitment.
“I never actually really believed it,” she said of her dream chart. “I probably sold myself short a little bit but I was going through the recruiting process to get to the tournament and play one game and if we make a run, great. But I wanted to play in an NCAA Tournament, that was it.”
With that goal in mind, Nurse began narrowing her list and working towards a decision. That was, until she went down to Washington DC to play in a tournament. There, the Huskies’ coaching staff saw her play for the first time and expressed interest in her.
“I kind of had to open it back up because when these guys call you you have to give them a shot,” she said.
Despite this, Nurse still had doubts about herself.
“I wasn’t sure if they were calling the right people. My mom looked at me and said ‘I don’t think they just call anybody. They just don’t do it for fun’ and I said, ‘You’re right.’”
With that shot of confidence, Nurse took her official visit to Storrs and quickly fell in love with the school and program. She cancelled her remaining visits and committed to the Huskies, fulfilling her seventh-grade dream.
Although Kia one-upped her sister when it came to colleges, she still faced a tall task. Tamika also played for the Canadian National Team, where she helped them to a fifth-place finish at the 2005 U-19 World Championships and lead the team in scoring in the qualifying games.
Safe to say Kia also surpassed those accomplishments as well.
In 2015, she led Canada to a gold medal in the Toronto Pan Am games and was honored as the country’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies. The same year, she was named MVP of the FIBA Americas Championship after helping her national team capture the gold medal. In 2016, Canada reached the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics.
Her success with the Canadian National Team has thrown Nurse into the spotlight as the face of women’s basketball in Canada. The attention is something playing at UConn prepared her for, but it still took a while to get used to.
“You come [to UConn] and you don’t really know what to expect and you walk around the mall and people are like “Hey!” and you’re like “Hi, you know who I am. That’s really weird,” Nurse said. “Then you go home and you play a game like Pan-Am’s and people do the same thing and you’re like ‘This is just getting really strange’.
Nurse isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight, even she did need to acclimate to it. Now being comfortable with it, Nurse wants to use the extra attention for good.
“I’m fortunate to be in programs like this. We have a voice if we wanted to say something, if we wanted to help people,” Nurse said. “We have a voice to be role models for young women around the world who want to be athletes and want to be strong and want to be confident in everything they do and come out and look fearless every single day. I have no problem with that.”
As much as anymore, Nurse knows the importance of having a good role model at a young age. It was never about the attention, the accolades or the trophies. She just worked to be the best possible player that she could be and everything else followed suit.
“I just wanted to be everything that she was,” She said. “So when I started coming up, it was, ‘Can I beat my sister?’ Took a while but I got there, I think.”