Athletic success runs in the family for Nurse

 

By Patrick Ralph

 

Through the first month of the season, few, if any rookie has been more impressive than Liberty guard Kia Nurse. Drafted out of UConn with the 10th pick, Nurse is averaging 19 points per game through the first four games of her WNBA career.

Her points per game average ranks second only to center Tina Charles on the team, and Nurse leads the Liberty in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage. Nurse’s scoring average ranks ninth in the WNBA and is second only to Aces center A’ja Wilson among rookies this year.

Nurse has scored in double figures in all four games, including a career-high 34 points to help propel the Liberty to a 87-81 overtime road win over the Fever on Saturday. It was the most points scored by a rookie and bench player in franchise history.

Given her strong start, Nurse has vaulted herself to the front of the Rookie of the Year discussions. But while many may not have expected Nurse’s breakout start, it might not be that surprising based on her athletic upbringing and background.

Nurse is not the first professional athlete in her family. In fact, she is the fourth member of her family to play professional sports. While her father Richard played wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League (CFL), Nurse is the niece of former Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb starred for three teams in the NFL, most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles. Her brother Darnell currently plays hockey for the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL.

Nurse has also had several other family members who have played sports at the collegiate level, including her mom Cathy, sister Tamika, and cousin Sarah. While her mom and sister played basketball in college, Nurse’s cousin played hockey.

Growing up in Canada, Nurse was not as exposed to women’s basketball as she was to her country’s national past time. She and her brother grew up skating, but Nurse said she wanted no part of hockey. As her brother started shooting pucks, Nurse began shooting hoops and focusing on basketball.

Despite having different sports interests, Nurse said that her brother has always been there for her.

“That’s my best friend,” Nurse said. “He’s had a huge impact on me as a person.”

Nurse’s older brother Darnell was selected seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Draft and made his debut with the Oilers in 2014. In his fourth season with Edmonton, Nurse’s plus-minus rating ranked second on the team after appearing in all 82 games. The Oilers defenseman also finished in the top six on the team in both points and assists this year.

Nurse is not the only rookie in the WNBA with a fellow professional athlete sibling. Sky forward Diamond DeShields’ brother Delino plays centerfield for the Texas Rangers.

Given Darnell’s experience as a professional athlete, Kia said that he has been helpful in her transition into playing basketball at the professional level.

“He’s taught me how to be a pro,” Nurse said. “He’s told me that the cameras are always going to be on you and that it is normal to go through different phases of the transition. He reminds me that some days will be better than others and you’ll figure it out and get more used to it.”

Both Kia and Darnell have represented and played for their home country Canada in their respective sports. That being said, the two have a special relationship because of their shared experiences.

“We’re able to have a unique connection because we’re going through a lot of the same stuff,” Nurse said. “We understand what makes each other happy and how we feel.”

Work ethic and composure are just two of the many qualities Kia said that she has tried to inherit from her brother.

“He’s always saying that you need to be one step ahead of the competition,” Nurse said. “He always remains even-keeled and just goes with the flow. He listens first before he gives his opinion.”

Through the first four games of her WNBA career, Nurse appears to have taken her brother’s advice by being one step ahead of her competition. It might be early on, but Nurse is establishing herself as a secondary scoring option to compliment her teammate and fellow UConn alum Charles. If Nurse keeps her strong play up, she could find herself moving off the bench and into the starting lineup for the Liberty this season.

But for now, Nurse is just enjoying her strong start to her rookie campaign.

“We’re growing everyday and showing that fight we need to compete and win,” Nurse said. “It’s been a lot of fun and there’s not a lot of slow days. I’ve got a lot of confidence and I’m a lot happier with where I am right now.