The 2019 All-Star readies her WNBA comeback, primed to make a splash.
A lot has changed since we last saw Kia Nurse play in the WNBA. It was the fall of 2021, and the Phoenix Mercury were in the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces, a series they would go on to win. Nurse landed wrong after a drive to the basket, tearing her ACL. After the Mercury’s finals loss to the Chicago Sky in 2021, Kia had surgery and started her year-long recovery process. One of the worst—and, unfortunately, most common—injuries a basketball player can suffer, though, wasn’t going to stop the Canadian Olympian.
Though she returned to basketball in 2022 by way of the FIBA World Cup, Nurse is set to make her WNBA comeback as she suits up for the Seattle Storm this 2023 season. After being drafted 10th overall by the New York Liberty in 2018, Kia is set to play her fifth season in the league, ready to introduce herself to the passionate fans of Seattle.
For Nurse, the last year surely dragged on as she dealt with the physical and mental struggles of recovering from such a complicated injury. Yet, her demeanor, great bench outfits, and constant support on the sidelines showed nothing but positivity as she recovered. She stayed in Phoenix for the 2022 WNBA season to rehab; during that time, the Mercury dealt with a series of tumultuous circumstances, as they worked through the wrongful detainment of Brittney Griner, adjusted to a new coaching staff, and juggled an ever-changing roster.
While Nurse was out rehabilitating, the Canada Basketball program also hired an all-new coaching staff and secured their bid to the Women’s World Cup. Through it all, Nurse focused on her recovery, and 351 days after she was injured, she returned to the court to represent Canada at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney.
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Nurse averaged 21 minutes and 11 points per game, and she finished with an overall field goal percentage of 41.3 in the tournament. Team Canada had a fantastic performance, getting to the semifinals and placing fourth in the world—a testament to the program’s steady rise over the past decade. They now prepare to take on the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
With her official comeback completed and the offseason upon her, Nurse headed back to Toronto, where she works as a Toronto Raptors broadcast analyst for TSN. She continued to ramp up her recovery with the help of her trainer, building off the success of her World Cup run.
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This offseason’s wild WNBA free agency period brought more change for Nurse, who signed a deal with Seattle. The Storm are in a transitional period after the retirement of Sue Bird and the departure of Breanna Stewart in free agency. Most of their current roster is new signings, anchored by All-Star and Olympic/World Champion Jewell Loyd and up-and-comer Ezi Magbegor.
On several fronts, it’s a great scenario for Nurse. First, she’ll be able to play a lot of minutes, likely as a starter, for the youngest Storm team fielded since the rookie days of Stewart and Loyd. As a veteran on the team, she’ll take on more of a leadership role than was necessary on her veteran-heavy Mercury teams. Nurse is a proven leader, as shown during her time with the Canada Basketball program. She showcases her leadership skills as a mentor to her Kia Nurse Elite youth programs, and as a role model for young Canadian women in sport.
She also has the advantage of now playing with Team Canada lead assistant coach Noelle Quinn, who serves as the Storm’s head coach. In a press conference during training camp, Nurse said that the connection with Quinn has helped her transition to the Storm team. They run a lot of the same plays on both squads, so there is a comfort in that, as well as with Quinn herself. In discussing how playing in the WNBA helps prepare her to represent Canada at the Olympics or at FIBA events, Nurse said that “playing against the best every night” is good practice. It means good things for the fifth-ranked Canada Basketball program, having Nurse and Quinn working together all season long, building chemistry that will carry over when it comes time to prepare for international events.
In Nurse, the Storm have gained a gritty defender and a sharp shooter. Nurse is never afraid to dive for a loose ball, and she often wins the defensive matchup as a 6’ guard/wing. When she gets hot beyond the arc, look out, because she’ll be shooting her shot all night long. Of course, no one can forget her impressive buzzer beater euro-step shot from half-court that won a game for the Mercury against the Sky in 2021—maybe she’ll bust one of those out this season in Seattle.
As fans watched her comeback at the World Cup, many noticed how light on her feet Nurse looked—unsurprising given her intense rehabilitation—and how strong her presence was on court.
In overseas play, Kia spent two seasons with the UC Capitals in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League, winning the league’s MVP award in 2020, becoming the first international player to do so. She’s a two-time NCAA national champion with UConn. Her acquisition is great for both sides, with Kia mentioning in training camp that she already feels she made the right decision coming to Seattle, and the Storm gaining an experienced shooter, defender, and team leader.
Part two of her comeback is now upon us, and fans will be watching to see how her experiences over the past year and a half have shaped her into the player we will see this WNBA season. If anyone can weather the storm, it’s Kia Nurse.
Stats as of 5/17/23 and courtesy of FIBA.