When you come from a family of respected athletes, greatness is expected – there’s a lot of pressure and high hopes for success. But 17-year-old high school senior, Kia Nurse, has not only handled the pressure with the poise of someone much older, she has also exceeded expectations by quickly becoming the youngest player on the Canadian senior women’s basketball team this year.
It started out innocently enough: Nurse was invited to watch the senior national team during training camp earlier this year without any strings or promises attached. But after the first day, team officials – perhaps as curious as they were impressed – kept asking her to return. That was May. Since then, Nurse went on to become one of the top scorers for Canada during the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, averaging 10 points a game and shooting about 32 percent from the field.
“It’s a process. Once I got here everyone was really welcoming,” Nurse says about her new teammates. “They took me in and helped out with all the new stuff I was learning. Everyone has been extremely supportive.”
“It’s such an amazing experience. To be around all these veterans – you learn so much from them. It’s just such a great learning experience for me, to play at such a high level.”
To be fair, Nurse’s athletic success didn’t just happen overnight – she’s young but she’s hardly a rookie. The Hamilton native has been playing rep league basketball since the age of four. She started playing senior girls basketball for her high school in the 9th grade and was awarded Athlete of the Year honors that year and for the two years that followed. She has also won two national championships with Team Ontario, six provincial championships with her Hamilton Transway team, and collected a few medals in international play with Team Canada’s national age-group programs.
However, it wasn’t only Nurse’s athletic ability that made an impression on head coach for the Canadian senior team, Lisa Thomaidis. Yes, Nurse is a rare 6’0 point guard that can play defense as well as she can run offense, but Thomaidis was most impressed by something else she saw in the young talent.
“She’s a world-class athlete but that alone wouldn’t have gotten her on the team,” Thomaidis says. “There are all the intangibles that you want in your point guard – the toughness factor is probably right at the top of the list. She’s fearless. She won’t back down from anyone. And the maturity – her demeanor on the floor. She’s had some players right up against her and it doesn’t faze her. If anything, it makes her tougher and more focused.”
Nurse is also pretty realistic. She knows that as far as she’s come in a relatively short period of time, she still has work to do – like improving her outside shooting game, finishing strong against much bigger players and, of course, graduating from high school. At the time of production, Nurse had just scored 31 of St. Thomas More’s 52 points in a win over the St. Mary Crusaders at the 2013 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ basketball championship game.
After having been courted by top Division I programs like Kentucky, Penn State, Tennessee, and Indiana, in November Nurse officially announced her commitment to play NCAA basketball with UConn.
At this rate, Nurse will be playing professionally sooner than we expect, guided by her mantra, “respect all, fear none” – perfectly suited to this young leader. And, in the spirit of a veteran much older than she, Nurse has a few important words of advice we could all use, regardless of age.
“Just don’t stop. Every little thing is an opportunity and every opportunity comes from all the hard work that you put in – all the behind the scenes things that happen,” she says. “Anything is possible until the impossibility is proven. You just got to keep working at it – never give up on anything.”
Editor’s Note: Kia Nurse committed to the University of Connecticut Huskies