Freshman Nurse has been a constant for Huskies this season
New Orleans - Given a choice, Kia Nurse would not go a day without a basketball in her hands or a game to play.
The UConn freshman guard was more than happy to head to each and every one of the Canadian national team training camps over the summer. What better way to prepare for the challenge of playing for the nine-time national champion Huskies than to go head-to-head against professional standouts on a daily basis. The ultimate prize came when the youngest member of the squad started for Canada during a surprising run to a fifth-place finish at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
If there was a downside, it is that Nurse never really got a chance to take a breather physically or emotionally.
When Nurse moved into a starting role at UConn in her third game, she responded with 10 straight double-digit scoring games. Perhaps even more impressive is that she committed more than one turnover in just three of those contests.
Things eventually began to become a little more difficult. In one recent 10-game stretch Nurse had seven games with multiple turnovers.
"I played all year for a couple years now and you definitely get through those stretches where you feel like you hit a wall but it is just a matter of battling through it," Nurse said. "I have always had a good support system at home and with the coaches here. Everybody helps me through it and we get through it."
When UConn got off to a slow start in Saturday's win over Tulsa, Nurse was one of the players who helped the Huskies get things going. While Breanna Stewart, who had a season-high 28 points, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who hit five 3-pointers in the first half were the headliners in the 92-46 UConn win, it would be a mistake to overlook the impact Nurse had.
She scored the game's first two points on a beautifully-executed play off the opening tip. When Nurse hit a 3-pointer with 15:58 left in the half, she already had five points, a rebound and an assist. She would finish with 12 points, three rebounds, two steals and her first blocked shot of the season.
It should give her plenty of confidence heading into tonight's game at Tulane (8 p.m., SNY).
"Offensive rhythm is always a good thing to have under your belt, a good thing for confidence," Nurse said.
While other freshmen have announced their arrival with more pizazz than the 6-foot Hamilton, Ontario native, Nurse is quietly putting together an outstanding debut season.
Nurse became the 22nd freshmen in Geno Auriemma's 30 seasons to score more than 300 points as a true freshman. Her 3-point percentage of 43.7 is the highest for a UConn freshman to average at least one 3-pointer a game. She is also 14 assists and four steals away from becoming the sixth freshman at UConn with 100 assists and 50 steals.
"When you have a freshman like Kia who starts right away, something we don't have a lot here, we don't view her as a freshman," UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph said. "She does have ebbs and flows during the season, and the most important thing for her is to find consistency in practice. ... When that happens, the games are like clock work."
Nurse is averaging 11.3 points per game and has scored in double figures in 19 games. Nurse has not been piling up stats against the sisters of the poor either. She is one of four Huskies averaging more than 10 points per game against ranked teams.
Nurse was asked to come in and help fill the shoes of All-American Bria Hartley and play alongside a nucleus of veterans who have as strong of a bond on the court as they do off of it. Her older teammates can't speak too highly of Nurse.
"Every freshman is going to have some struggles," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "The issue right now, and it is not really even an issue, just a thing she is struggling with is her confidence and knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. She is learning the difference between going fast and being our of control but other than that, her intensity, her effort never changes and that is something we need from her."