T.O.’s WNBA star Kia Nurse on her grand return, the Raptors and eyeing the Olympic Games

After a blown anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sidelined her for a year, Kia Nurse returned to the court at the World Cup, but that’s only a slice of what she’s got going on. We chat with her about her comeback, the Raps, a women’s pro team in T.O. & the Olympic Games.

What teams are going to be in the NBA finals?

I think, from my perspective, the Ben Simmons [player with the Brooklyn Nets] experiment might just work out, mainly because he can be moved off the ball — he doesn’t have to be a shooter, he can be a playmaker — and Kyrie Irving off the ball. Oh my God, I would never want to guard that. So, I like the Nets if they don’t fall apart. In the west, I still very much like the Golden State Warriors.

How about the Raptors?

I think obviously, this Raptors team, they gravitate toward similar types of player, which is lanky, versatile, athletic. They can guard multiple positions, they play positionless basketball. That’s tough to play against on a nightly basis. And they all play hard, nitty-gritty on the defensive end, which is where they hang their hat. And it gets them out in transition for easy points. So for me, I think this is another playoff team. I think they’re still in the growth stages. But I do think this is a good team. I think they can get themselves an opportunity to play in the playoffs and make a run if they want.

Who will have a breakout season?

I want to see what Scottie Barnes can do outside of what we saw last season. Think about what the Raptors got out of Scottie Barnes last year. It’s absolutely insane. That was way more than anyone projected. So I’m interested to see how his growth continues.

You came back at the recent World Cup after a year off due to injury. How did it feel?

Honestly, it was such an incredible feeling. It’s hard to put into words, but it was a combination of 11 months of work and of rehab, good days and bad days, then I got the opportunity to finally play again. It was just a happy time. There’s just so much joy and excitement to be back out there, like a kid in a candy shop.

What was most\ challenging about the recovery?

It was more of the mental side of things that was probably the most challenging, and feeling like you’re ready to go but knowing that you probably shouldn’t be out there because you could reinjure yourself. It feels like a never-ending process.

Did you pick up any hobbies?

I was already a pretty big reader. I like reading murder mystery books, especially. But I had a lot more time to do reading. So I got into a little bit of fantasy, as well as the Sarah J. Mass novels. And honestly, I just learned how to actually sit down and relax and be OK with not doing something.

Are you looking ahead to the 2024 Olympic Games?

Absolutely. If you look at how the Olympic team works, as an athlete, you’re looking at it in terms of a quad, so four years that it takes to get to the Olympics and kind of what the process is to qualify. So, you know, world championships was basically step number two for us. And this is definitely, you know, what you work toward: is having the opportunity to represent your country at the highest level, which would be the games, and having gone to two of them has been incredible.

There’s a record number of Canadians in the NBA. Is that growth paralleled on the women’s side?

I think we are getting more young women picking up the ball and having more opportunities for them to play. Back in my childhood, I started playing for Hamilton Transway, an all-women’s program. I think it truly makes a difference when young women have their own space in a sport.

Are we going to get a  WNBA team up here or what?

I think the WNBA is clearly looking toward Canada and looking toward expansion. I know we’re bringing, I believe, one exhibition game here next year to Toronto, and so having the opportunity for young women to see the WNBA in Canada live, having the opportunity for the game of basketball to continue to grow on a different front than just simply the Raptors, will be really important and really exciting for our fans.

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