Basketball: Kia Nurse returns to Canada’s World Cup team

Basketball: Kia Nurse returns to Canada’s World Cup team

In early August, when Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia, Kia Nurse and her Phoenix Mercury teammates followed court proceedings on their phones in the locker room.

The Mercury hosted the Connecticut Sun later in the day, and players from both teams embraced at midfield before the game for a 42-second moment of silence, a nod to the Grind’s jersey number and the Phoenix club.

“It was very difficult to play this game. I don’t know how my teammates did it. It was very difficult to play the whole season without him,” admitted Nurse.

The 26-year-old Hamilton defender is returning to the Canadian team at the FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup in Australia, her first official match since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on October 6.

A nurse fought back tears Monday as she recalled the darkest days of the season, “hell on earth” for Mercury.

“BG is the best of human beings,” he said of Griner, an eight-time WNBA All-Star who was convicted of drug possession and trafficking after less than a gram of marijuana oil was found in his luggage.

“It was a big thing not to have him on the field this season, not to use his attitude, his energy. And the fact that he is still not at home is disappointing. We tried as a team to make sure his story is known, to make sure his name is put forward as much as possible. But you go to training and you wonder what he is doing. »

Mercury did well in his absence.

“We continue to keep him in our prayers, to keep his family in our prayers, to make sure he knows he is loved and not forgotten and to put more emphasis on those who are able to make decisions to bring him. at home, because it is clear that he has been detained wrongly,” the nurse said.

Crossing the desert

The nurse’s knee injury had already made the past year more difficult in her career.

“There have been a lot of good days, a lot of bad days, a lot of tears, a lot of anger, but also a lot of little victories along the way,” Nurse said in a video call from Sydney, Australia. Physically, it went very well. But mentally, it was difficult. There have been ups and downs. »

She spent several months of her rehabilitation at her home in Ontario, enjoying the support of her boyfriend John Robinson IV and his family.

“Poor John shared all my good days, and put up with my bad days,” laughed the Nurse.

He also sought advice from his brother Darnell, a guard for the Edmonton Oilers, and his uncle Donovan McNabb, a 13-year NFL veteran who also tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

“We’ve been through hell on earth this year as a team,” Nurse said. And not being able to be with them was a very difficult thing and that’s when my patience was tested. I haven’t been as patient as I’d like, but it’s a process and even at this point there’s nothing I can do to speed it up. »

The Canadians will open the World Cup against Serbia on Thursday (11 pm Wednesday night), then they will face France, Japan, Australia and Mali in the group stage. The nurse, who last played for the national team at the Tokyo Olympics where Canada failed to advance, hopes to see his playing time increase with each game.

Veteran Natalie Achonwa, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her final season at Notre Dame, calmed Nurse, telling her to “not put the weight on her shoulders.”

“He looks good,” Achonwa said. I tell Kia every day that she just needs to be herself. I’ve been there and I realize the mental and emotional toll it takes. »

“He lives every day and it’s like we say, let’s celebrate a small victory. But Kia has done very well in training and in our two exhibition games (against China and Puerto Rico). I’m very happy to see him and to have him back on the field. »

Physically, Nurse noted that because he was confined to the weight room for most of his rehabilitation, he is stronger than ever. He added that he has not forgotten how to pass, dribble or shoot, now it’s about being able to execute everything quickly.

Mentally, he says he realized that he “had courage.”