More than ever, Canadian talent is taking the basketball world by storm. Canadian players are playing in the NBA, the WNBA and overseas - so let’s get to know them! Starting with Hamilton, Ontario’s very own Kia Nurse (no relation to Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse, because I know you’re wondering).
You may know Kia now as a member of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, but we’ve been cheering Kia on in Canada long before she became a fan-favourite WNBA All-Star. She started her career young; while in high school she won two National Championships with Team Ontario, two OFSAA Championships, and helped Team Canada win 2nd in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship. Apparently that winning spirit runs in her family, as Kia’s brother Darnell Nurse plays hockey for the Edmonton Oilers.
Kia was recruited to play under Coach Geno Auriemma at the University of Connecticut, where basketball stars such as Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Diana Taurasi got their start. As a UConn Husky, Kia won two NCAA Championships, was the only player to start in every game of the 2015-16 season and earned over 100 assists that season.
UConn was only the start for Kia, as she was drafted #10 overall in the 2018 WNBA draft to the New York Liberty and played in all 34 games of her rookie season. She is one of only three Canadian players currently in the WNBA, joining Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton, both of the Minnesota Lynx. In the 2019 WNBA season, Kia was voted to the WNBA All-Star game as a starter on Team Delle-Donne and participated in the 3-point contest. She was only the third Canadian player to ever play in the All-Star game AND she was only in her second season. Kia also shot 35.3% from beyond the arc and recorded a season high 26 points three separate times in that 2019 season. Kia played two seasons overseas in Australia with the Canberra Capitals where she was named the league’s MVP in 2020 and led her team to two consecutive championships in 2019 and 2020.
Nurse is also a favourite on the #4 ranked Canadian Women’s National Basketball Team. At the Pan American Games in 2015, Kia was a huge part of Canada’s historic gold medal win against the United States. She scored 33 points, shooting 10/17 from the field and knocking down 11 free throws and two 3-point shots — which led to her being chosen as Canada’s flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies. Kia made her Olympic debut at the 2016 games in Rio and suited up for Canada again at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In the winter leading up to the 2021 WNBA season, Nurse was traded to the Phoenix Mercury in a three-team deal that sent her and Megan Walker to Phoenix and Natasha Howard from Seattle to New York. Kia became a regular in Phoenix’s starting lineup along with Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner. It was an exciting season for Phoenix, who recorded 10 straight wins after the Olympic break and made it all the way to the WNBA finals, where they lost the series in four games to the Chicago Sky. One particularly memorable moment from the season was Kia’s game-winning shot on June 1st against the Sky, where she heaved it from half-court to win Phoenix the game. A shot so perfect that the cheers from my apartment were probably heard in Chicago after it went in.
Kia is a player that constantly brings defensive energy to her team and is someone Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello has said she “can really rely on.”
Unfortunately Canadian basketball fans will have to wait a little while before they can see Kia Nurse take the court again. In Game 4 of the WNBA semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces, Kia’s ACL in her right knee was torn in a fall causing her to sit out the remainder of the season. Until her return, fans can rewatch any of her previous WNBA and National Team games — or, like me, can rewatch that Euro-step buzzer beater until the end of time (seriously it is magical). We wish Kia a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her represent Canada on the court again.
Time and time again, Kia Nurse has represented Canada Basketball in a way that makes us all shout “YEAH, SHE’S CANADIAN” really loud at anyone who will listen. Her impact is felt on and off the court, overseas and here at home.
Outside of her career as a player, Kia also worked as a broadcaster on TSN last winter and was part of the historic Women-led Raptors broadcast on March 24, 2020 as a colour commentator. Kia also started Kia Nurse Elite, a Nike-backed AAU program that gives young women’s basketball players the opportunity to play in the United States and be seen by college scouts.
A mentor on and off the court to women of all ages in sports and sports media, Kia Nurse is someone who automatically comes to mind when you think of “Canadian Basketball Excellence” — which is why she is the perfect first profile for Homegrown Ballers. We can’t wait to see Kia return to the court soon!