wnba

One-on-one with Sparks guard Kia Nurse

John Panganiban-The Sporting Tribune
Kia Nurse has scored 20 points twice this season so far. She's averaging 12.2 points per game this season.

LOS ANGELES — Kia Nurse is quite an inspiration.

In the 2021 WNBA Finals, she suffered an ACL injury that put her out for the 2022 season. Nurse returned to the league for the 2023 season with Seattle, where she played all 40 games.

Nurse came over to the Los Angeles Sparks via trade by Seattle (which also included the #4 pick, who turned out to be Rickea Jackson). She is currently second on the Sparks in scoring as she is averaging 12.2 points per game. She’s already scored over 20 points twice this season. It’s safe to say that she’s completely back from that devastating setback.

We caught up with the former UConn Huskie at Sparks practice on Thursday. We talked about Los Angeles, Canada, how the team is doing, her health, and other things.

THE SPORTING TRIBUNE: Hello, Kia. How are you? How are family, friends, and loved ones?

KIA NURSE: Good! Everybody’s good.

TST: You’ve been to many places but how are you liking L.A. so far?

KIA: L.A.’s been great! It’s been really awesome, where we live is beautiful. The team has been great, I love the girls and the coaching staff, so it’s been a really good transition.

TST: Favorite thing about L.A.

KIA: The sun! And the warm weather.

TST: So what was your reaction when you learned that you were coming to the Sparks.

KIA: It’s a little bittersweet. I didn’t really know I was going to get traded from Seattle. There was a lot going on at that time. It was great to be able to have the opportunity to come here and obviously, the opportunity to play a lot and be in a bigger role, be in a leadership role. So I’m really excited about that and it’s turned out to be better than I expected.

TST: The team is full of first and second-year players. What do you feel has been the biggest strength of this team and the biggest weakness?

KIA: Weakness is probably our youth at times and turnovers have been a little bit of a struggle for us. The biggest strength is definitely our camaraderie on and off the court. It’s going to take some time for us to get the offensive stuff to play with one another. But knowing each other off the court and building these relationships that we’re building… it’s a fun team to be around and it’s fun to come to work every single day so that’s the best part about it.

TST: Team is 2-7. Not the best game last night but what’s the psyche of the team right now?

KIA: Still going out there and trying to fight, win some games. It’s hard to win games in the WNBA consistently and so for us, it’s a matter of cleaning up a couple of things here and there, game-to-game. It’s a long stretch of game-practice-game-practice-game-practice so being better every single time that we go out there and put forth.

TST: You said after the first game that this was really the first time you’ve felt more of yourself after the injury. Would you say you’re back to pre-injury or would you say you’re better than ever?

KIA: I don’t think pre-injury exists anymore. That’s just kind of was what it was and you have to revamp yourself to what you are now. For me, confidence-wise, my confidence is pretty high, my body’s feeling the best shape it’s been. I’m in a really good spot.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (3) drives against Los Angeles Sparks guard Kia Nurse (10) during the second quarter on Sunday, June 2, 2024, at Footprint Center in Phoenix.

TST: What did you learn about yourself after you went through that injury?

KIA: That I’m pretty resilient. A lot of it is a very difficult injury, especially for someone who’s so used to moving around so frequently. So it had to be sit down, learn to walk again, learn to run again, learn to play basketball all over again takes a lot mentally. And I think for me, personally, I battled through a lot of stuff. I went through a lot of ups and downs. But I got through it so health and high resilience.

TST: In a country known for hockey, what was it about basketball that captivated you?

KIA: I just wanted to be like my sister. She played basketball. I thought it was cool. So I just wanted to be like her.

TST: Was there a thought of playing professional hockey?

KIA: No.

TST: Who did you pattern your game after?

KIA: Honestly, I just wanted to be similar to my sister when I was younger. There’s no one that I really would say I want to be just like them so I’d take little pieces of different people’s games and try to add it to mine. You know, be able to knock down the three-ball, move a lot off the ball, and kind of be consistent in that sense.

TST: You see the expanded coverage of women’s basketball over the last year or so. But what else can we do to make it better and to sustain it?

KIA: Continuing to have these conversations. I think now it’s in a point where there’s a lot of voices and a lot of people around our league. The big thing is really getting to know the players and understanding our league.

For us now, there’s a lot of new fans but there’s also a lot of new media, right? Part of it is if you’ve never come and talked to a WNBA player, haven’t been around the WNBA a long time, figure out what we’re about. Figure out who we are. Learn our stories because a lot of the narratives are just coming out from people who’ve never seen us play before so it’s just… figure it out!

TST: Lightning round. Favorite food.

KIA: Pasta.

TST: Favorite song.

KIA: I listen to a lot of Y2K, 2000s (music).

TST: Any guilty pleasures?

KIA: Usually Oreos.

TST: You are from Canada. Tell me some great things about Canada.

KIA: Tim Horton’s. Ketchup chips. Our chocolate bar selection is a little bit better than here. And my family lives there so it’s a great place.

TST: But what about Justin Bieber?

KIA: I like Justin Bieber. He’s a good time.

TST: So you’re a Belieber.

KIA: Uhhhh, I like his music. I wouldn’t say I’m a Belieber!

TST: What would you like your legacy to be?

KIA: I try to make sure that I left the game a little bit better than you know I came into and inherited it because that’s what all the people who came before me did. But just someone who came and played really hard every single game, left it all on the floor. For me, coming from Canada, being a piece of representation for a lot of young women to be able to see what they can be and making sure the pinnacle of their sport from there is really important. If one young person picks up a ball and tries basketball and they learn all these life skills, I did my job.

We’d like to thank Kia Nurse for her time and candor. The Sparks play the Dallas Wings on Friday night at Crypto.Com Arena.