The Kia Nurse doesn’t know what to expect, either.
The two-time Canadian Olympian and five-year WNBA expert will play her first competitive basketball match in 11 months when she steps on the ground against Serbia in Australia in Canada’s opening game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
It’s been nearly a year since a nurse tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right leg in the midst of a WNBA semifinal while playing for the Phoenix Mercury.
Her season was over, and she knew right away that she was entering a new phase in her athletic career. She says what followed was the most difficult year of her career.
“Over the past eleven months or so, my world has looked a little different,” a nurse said on a Monday morning-Monday evening conference call for her in Australia. “So there were a lot of great days, a lot of bad days, a lot of tears, a lot of anger, but a lot of small victories along the way as well.
“…But, mentally speaking, it was tough. It was ups and downs and rollercoasters.
“So, it’s nice to finally be able to get back on the field. And you pass one thing, you come back to play again, and you just hit another mental roller coaster. So, this is going to be something completely new for the whole tournament.”
The nurse helped build the women’s team program to the level it has been for several years – Canada enters the tournament number four in the world. Despite this, for almost the first time since joining the national team when she was 17 years old in 2013, she will not automatically be the focal point of almost everything that happens on Earth.
Physically, it can’t be, at least not yet. You’ll be limited to minutes for the early stages of the tournament – you won’t say what it’s going to be, other than that it’s “low” – and in any case still trying to get up to speed long after being away from the action game.
still. The nurse is part of a new group of veterans leading a smaller version of the national team. In the wake of the three-time retirement of Olympic athletes Kim Gaucher and Miranda Aime, Canada will bring five players to Australia who were not on the Olympic roster in Tokyo.
Even if Nurse wasn’t immediately at the level that earned her a springboard to the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, her teammates are happy to have her back.
“I guess I look at it from a different perspective because I didn’t expect the Kia to be like the old Kia. Kia is the new Kia,” says Natalie Ashunwa, a national teammate of nearly a decade who previously recovered from a ruptured ACL. The idea is that you will be the same person (after a major injury) and you are not. It will always be new, and I love the new Kia.
“She’s still just as hot, just as aggressive, but she’ll bring something different…There’s no weight on her shoulders. We need what she can deliver, and this goes beyond just scoring goals, this goes beyond defensive stops. Having an elite athlete, Someone who is elite, like Kia on our team, no matter how many minutes you spend, is (what counts).”
There is optimism that the nurse will be able to contribute on the ground as well. She says that because she did a lot of weightlifting exercises during the rehab process, she’s stronger than she’s ever been, and she’s added and honed her big skills with all of her workouts. It’s a matter of transferring her fitness and technique from practice to competition with little time to ramp up.
“I played two [exhibition] Games in 11 months, so being able to decode and figure out what works for me well, and what doesn’t, is still something I think I’m going through right now.” “I haven’t forgotten how to pass or dribble or shoot, it’s just a matter of being able to do it in High clip and high speed. That’s a lot of what I’m going to work through.”
The whole year has been a test of her patience and resilience. She says she was fortunate to be able to turn to the elite athletes in her family for encouragement and advice.
Donovan McNab, the former NFL quarterback, is her uncle and has had to manage his ACL rupture recovery in his career, while her brother, Edmonton Oilers, defenseman Darnell, battled during the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring with a ruptured… hip joint Her boyfriend, former UCONN soccer player John Robinson IV, was also helpful, even if he had to be there for her during some low points.
She says, “Poor man.”
But some lessons can only be learned by looking at them. The nurse has always prided herself on being strong on earth, but she was dealing with something – with all her efforts – that needed time to fully resolve.
WNBA season without Greiner: ‘Hell on Earth’
That left her helpless during Mercury’s season was far below expectations. It was even more challenging as it was played while fellow Phoenix teammate Britney Grenier was incarcerated and then sentenced to 10 years in prison in Russia for being on the border with marijuana residue in the vape. The mere mention of Greiner’s name in the interview made the nurse cry, as she recalled the season of “Hell on Earth.”
“BG is absolutely the best when it comes to humans. And so, a lot this season has been her lack of pitch, her lack of spirit, and just her lack of energy,” said a nurse. “… She goes to training, and wonders what she’s doing… It was really hard to play an entire season without her…”
Her inability to help her fellow Mercury teammates on the ground made matters worse and tested her patience to new limits.
But with her knee healed and the nurse on the verge of ending one of the toughest chapters of her career, Nurse is waiting impatiently to see how she responds to her first competitive test.
The outcome is still unknown.
But there are a few things she was sure of now before her knee disintegrated and heralded a year of uncertainty.
what did you learn?
“I am a fighter from hell. That is what I have learned.”