Kia Nurse ready to end women's basketball medal drought

Kia Nurse is on a roll – one that she hopes extends all the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 20-year-old Hamilton, Ont., native played a pivotal role in helping the University of Connecticut Huskies to their fourth straight NCAA Division I women's basketball championship in April. That came on the heels of helping Canada win a gold medal at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Edmonton last summer, which was preceded by a gold-medal performance at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

"I could never get tired of winning," Nurse said with a laugh.

The six-foot guard, who was named most valuable player at the Olympic qualifier, said she and her teammates are ready to take a serious run at a first-ever Olympic medal. Canada is ranked No. 9 in the world. An 81-73 victory against the world No. 1-ranked United States in the gold-medal game of the Pan Am Games has given Canada hope for Olympic success.

"I think we feel ready to go and we're confident," Nurse said. "We understand there are rankings and people have their beliefs, but our intent is to go and win a medal. We'll use our confidence, our momentum and roll on through."

If Nurse comes across as distinctly confident, it should come as no surprise given her family background. Her father, Richard, played five seasons of professional football with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, while her mother, Cathy, played CIS basketball for McMaster University.

Her sister, Tamika, played NCAA basketball at Oregon and Bowling Green, as well as with the Canadian national team; her brother, Darnell, plays defence for the Edmonton Oilers and her uncle Donovan McNabb played quarterback for 13 seasons in the National Football League.

"We are definitely a competitive group with a fierce fire burning inside of us," Kia Nurse said. "I was the baby so I got to see what it took to be great at what you do."

Nurse describes herself as fun-loving and easy to get along with, insisting she is the first person to befriend a stranger. However, when it comes to competing on the basketball court, all bets are off.

"When it comes to basketball you probably won't meet a more competitive human being than me, other than my siblings," Nurse said. "I have always been taught to work hard and that everything I want, I have to earn. That is something I take pride in."

Comparisons to Christine Sinclair

Nurse isn't just a budding star on the basketball court. Many view her success as a launching pad to attracting young girls to the sport, just like Christine Sinclair's influence has stretched beyond the soccer pitch.

"It has come up a couple of times," Nurse said of Sinclair comparisons. "It's weird to think about because I am so young, but at the same time it's a pretty cool platform to stand on. To be a role model for young girls and to allow them to see and love the sport that I have learned to love would be amazing."

Nurse is also aware of how closely monitored she is with every move she makes.

"I think now, more than ever, in world where social media takes over everything, you understand that you have a responsibility to post things that are appropriate. You have to understand there are a lot of young kids who are watching every single move you make and imitating that. It's definitely a bit of a responsibility."

Richard Nurse said he and his wife Cathy instilled a strong work ethic into their children and Kia has a firm understanding of what she needs to do to be successful.

"She does what it takes to win and that is what I am most proud of," Richard Nurse said. "If she needs to score, she'll score. If she needs to make the right pass, she'll make it. If she needs to defend, she defends. For her it's about winning; not about what is on the stat sheet."

Kia Nurse is the baby of the national team at 20, but she is not intimidated.

"I feel like there is a level of understanding between me and the veterans," Nurse said. "They have confidence in me and they tell me that every day."

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