The second-year guard out of UConn shone brightly despite a tough loss
CHICAGO — Just two days removed from being named an WNBA All-Star starter for the first time, New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse looked the part and then some on Friday night.
Her stats were impressive, though only slightly above pedestrian by her standards — 18 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in a losing effort to a Chicago Sky team that appears to have fully righted the ship — but the case she continued to make for her inclusion among the league’s 10 best players, clichéd as it sounds, was not fully reflected in the box score.
Per usual, she was in the thick of things from start to finish of the Liberty’s 99-83 loss, threading tough passes in and out of the paint, taking contact and making highlight reel-worthy finishes at the rim like it was her right to do so. Perhaps her most impressive moment, out of many, came in the waning seconds of the first quarter, when she flew into the middle of the lane seemingly out of nowhere to grab a long rebound, which she half-swatted/half-threw directly back from where it came, right at the buzzer.
See for yourself:
After the game, Nurse, who led both teams in individual scoring, was as incredulous as anybody else who’d seen the play live.
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“I usually get caught staring at the ball and I saw my girl staring at the ball so I just went,” she said, laughing. “And I tried to get it off before the buzzer and it went in. I don’t know how, it just did.”
Incredulity is a theme here. The team found out about Nurse’s election to the All-Star starting squads shortly after everyone else did, when they landed in Chicago on Wednesday. Though it shouldn’t have quite come as a surprise given the year she’s having, Nurse couldn’t help but shake her head as she reminisced about the moment she found out.
“The world is a crazy place,” she said, succinctly.
She went on to say how excited she was to represent her team, her family and Canada two weeks from now in Las Vegas.
Excitement is another theme, and it’s evident in her coaches and teammates alike.
“I’m pumped, to be voted in as a starter is huge,” New York coach Katie Smith said. “With how hard she plays, you’re always pumped for these guys to see success and have these awards come their way, especially when they put in the work. I’m excited for her to go out there and represent us.”
Veteran Amanda Zahui B. said she was so excited when she found out, she waited outside the plane to hug Nurse as she deboarded. As she heard this story, Nurse, sitting one chair over, was visibly embarrassed and said she couldn’t stop smiling.
“It’s all love!” Zahui B. said to her teammate.
“It’s amazing, and especially from last year to this year,” she continued. “Obviously last year we saw that fire in her, [the way] she shot the ball and the speed. Those were the first things that caught my eye. She’s really athletic, and this year she just put more into her game, when she drives to the basket and she’s getting crazy and-ones.”
After a second-straight lopsided loss following the end of a four-game winning streak on Sunday, one might expect the former UConn Husky and her teammates to be downtrodden. But this wasn’t quite the case. While the mood in the locker room was certainly muted to an extent, nobody appeared to be hanging their heads.
It stands to reason that when you’re an All-Star starter before your 24th birthday, people tend to follow your lead.
“She’s just a high energy, good-spirited person that you want to have around,” Zahui B. said. “When things are going great she’s the first one hyping [us up], and when things are rough she still smiles and makes sure everyone’s good.”
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