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When Kia Nurse made it to the WNBA, she knew she wanted to make the path easier for all of the Canadian girls hoping to follow in her footsteps. To help aid others in their hoop journeys, Nurse, along with her father, Richard, created Kia Nurse Elite (KNE), Canada’s first and only Nike Girls EYBL affiliate team. After initially starting with two teams during the 2019 season, the program’s first official season in the EYBL circuit came in 2021. Two years later, the program has blossomed into having 13 teams from U12 all the way up to U17. The KNE U17 squad became the first Canadian team to win the Boo Williams Invitational, sweeping the competition with a 6-0 record this past April.
“We want to run it as a world class program,” Nurse says. “We’ve built something that’s really cool. My dad’s a huge piece of this—my family, too—because it was honestly one of the best ways to give back to our athletes, to give our young women opportunities that I didn’t necessarily have on that stage.”
The program allows Canadian hoopers to play against the best talent stateside while also offering them exposure to the best coaches and scouts in the game. Players travel and room together on the road, helping to prepare them for basketball at the next level.
“I want their pathway to be easier, but I want them to still understand that they have to earn everything that comes their way,” Nurse says of the players in her program.
By teaching players universal defensive principles and how to get on the floor, as well as providing on- and off-court tools that they can take with them into any situation and onto any team, Kia Nurse Elite aims to give players a leg up—if they’re willing to put in the work.
After being drafted 10th overall by the New York Liberty in 2018, Nurse is now in Seattle playing for the Storm.
“Now that I’m so close to Vancouver, where it’s only a two-hour drive, there was a whole little team that came in and they were all waving at me during warm-ups,” Nurse recalls. “I could hear someone say, One, two, three… go Kia! and it was adorable. To help bring a couple more young women to the game is something that I’ll never take for granted.”
Despite being away from Canada for so much of the year, Nurse wears her Canadian heart on her sleeve.
“I try to make sure everybody in this League and everybody that I meet in America knows I’m Canadian,” she says. “I’m like, I’m not from here! I always make it very obvious that I’m Canadian. I love the fact that sometimes people are like, She’s wearing a Kia Nurse Elite jersey, those must be the Canadians. I’m like, Yes, 100 percent! Thank you.
Photo courtesy of Kia Nurse Elite and Getty Images.