TORONTO - On December 22, Kia Nurse and the UConn Huskies defeated the Duquesne Dukes 104-52 on her home soil, inspiring a sold out crowd at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
UConn played their first game outside of the United States this season for Kia’s “homecoming” game as a senior, courtesy of Coach Geno Auriemma and the UConn staff.
“It was worth it and we played pretty well,” noted Geno. “I know she really appreciates it and we enjoyed doing it.”
The two-time NCAA champion and 2015 FIBA MVP could not contain her excitement from the start of the national anthem to the end of their blowout victory. Kia made a show of her homecoming with an efficient nine for 11 from the field, totalling 24 points with five rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“To come here and be surrounded by so much love and appreciation and sing my national anthem before a game was the best part. I was singing, putting my heart and soul into that one.”
The 21 year-old’s performance inspired the young crowd that formed around her on the court immediately following the game, with many young girls hoping to chat with their idol. Kia spoke about this treasured experience.
“I was excited to see as many young women as we had today,” she said. “[I saw] all the young girls and they say the sweetest things. It was great to hang out and talk to them.”
She is currently working on a school project to teach young female athletes life skills through sport. Kia wishes for them “to understand that it’s not about winning or losing … it’s about the things you learn outside of [the sport], so the communication skills, the ability to work with other people.”
Kia’s love for the game is infectious, and she hopes to inspire children to follow their passions as well. For the enthusiastic young athletes that cheered for her, seeing their role model in person was a dream come true. Kia relates to looking up to a role model growing up, having watched her older sister Tamika play varsity basketball.
“I think that’s a huge part of pushing young females to continue to play sports and find these other things that aren’t limited to athletic success,” she explained. “When you can have female role models who are not only athletes, but are people who generally care about others and want to make a difference, then the sky’s the limit.”