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Canada’s Kia Nurse hopes to inspire with WNBA exhibition in Edmonton on May 4

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When Kia Nurse was growing up in Hamilton, the nearest professional basketball that she could see in person was the Toronto Raptors. Although superstar Vince Carter was her favourite player, she couldn’t see herself in him.

She’s hoping to change that feeling for young Canadian girls.

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Nurse will lead the Los Angeles Sparks against the Seattle Storm at Edmonton’s Rogers Place in a WNBA exhibition game on May 4. She said on Tuesday that the pre-season event is a real opportunity to inspire the next generation of Canadian talent.

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“It might not be me they resonate with, there’s 20 other people in the gym that do what I do and they might resonate with one of them and that’s still growing the game, right?” said Nurse from her home in Los Angeles. “That’s when you have the opportunity as a young kid to say ‘that’s my new favourite player.’

“For me, that was Maya Moore. I saw her on TV playing for UConn and I was like, ‘Oh, I want to be like her’ and look where I am now.”

The exhibition in Edmonton will be the second WNBA Canada Game after a sold-out crowd at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena saw the Chicago Sky defeat the Minnesota Lynx 82-74 on May 13.

Nurse said she was eager to have a direct impact on young fans through the upcoming game.

“If somebody follows in my footsteps and make it to professional sports, great. If they don’t and they play in college, great. If they don’t and they play just in high school, great,” said Nurse. “All the things that I’ve learned about basketball are the same things that they’re going to learn, no matter whatever level they get to.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to introduce some newbies to our sport and have them pick up a ball.”

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Nurse was traded from Seattle to the Sparks on Jan. 31, but she said there’s no ill will toward her former Storm teammates.

“Whatever team I’m playing on is an opportunity to play in the WNBA,” said Nurse. “There’s only 144 of those opportunities so I’m going to take each and every one of those and be grateful for it.”

Her sister Tamika Nurse, who played NCAA basketball in the United States before moving into broadcasting, said that having the exhibition in Edmonton could be even more impactful than last year’s WNBA pre-season game in southern Ontario.

“I think Edmonton does not often get to see a lot of women’s basketball where Toronto has the luxury of that,” she said, noting that Aaliyah Edwards of Kingston, Ont., led the UConn Huskies past Toronto Metropolitan University 111-34 on Dec. 20. “I think Edmonton itself is actually a very big women’s basketball hotbed and I think they crave the ability to see and be in the stands.”

Although the Nurse family is from Hamilton, they have deep roots in Edmonton. Both Kia and Tamika have played for Canada’s national women’s team, which often trains in the Alberta capital, and brother Darnell Nurse is a defenceman for the NHL’s Oilers.

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The WNBA Canada Game in Edmonton was originally scheduled for Sunday, May 5, but had to be shifted a day earlier in case the Oilers’ playoff series again the Los Angeles Kings went to seven games. Kia Nurse said she was actually happy to have the change.

“Saturdays are more fun than Sundays, in my opinion,” Kia, the youngest of the Nurse siblings, said with a laugh. “What I’m really excited about is we have actually missed each other in the last couple of years because he’ll be in playoff series and I’ll always end up in a training camp.

“Now my parents are coming here (to L.A.) and so I guess we can all get dinner together and then he’s going to play his games and we’re going to go watch them and, then come back to Edmonton so I get a full extra week with my family.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.

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