Kia Nurse is an academic All-American, yet she struggles to comprehend a pair of one-syllable words when used together:
For example, Nurse scored 12 points and Team Canada won the gold medal at FIBA AmeriCup 2017 with a 67-65 win over host Argentina in Buenos Aires on Aug. 13. The next day, she flew to Italy -- a journey of approximately 6,930 miles -- and on Aug. 15, she scored 18 points in the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 68-52 exhibition win over the Dutch national team in Rome.
"It took two flights," Nurse said of her trip. "I played 20 minutes a game in Argentina. I'm young, 21. I have a lot of energy."
Of course, if the Huskies' guard did slow her pace, she wouldn't be the effective player and leader she is.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native is off to a Nurse-like start her senior season as the top-ranked Huskies prepare to take on Michigan State in the Nike PK80 Invitational on Saturday (SNY, 3 p.m.) at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.
"You go into the season with maybe a better understanding of things and some more experience," Nurse said. "You gain more, you get closer to it being the end. This is my final year and I want to continue and get better every day of it.
"It's bittersweet. I'm fortunate to have been here for as long as I have. I'm not sure that I want to go into the real world yet because the world that I'm part of now is a lot of fun."
Nurse is averaging 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists for UConn (4-0), which has opened the season with wins over four top-20 teams. Her defense, as usual, has been a strength, and she stood out in Tuesday's win at No. 5 UCLA. As a junior, she set career highs in points (12.7 per game), assists (3.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6). She led the American Athletic Conference in 3-point shooting percentage (career-best 46.2) and free-throw percentage (career-best 85.5), reached the 1,000-point plateau last January and, in UConn's second-round NCAA tournament win over Syracuse, tied a tourney record with nine treys.
But unlike her first two seasons, she didn't get the ending she wanted. Mississippi State ended the Huskies' 111-game winning streak and four-year reign as national champions with an overtime win in the NCAA Final Four in Dallas.
"I definitely think that it's been motivation, and I'm not sure that you ever do stop talking about it," Nurse said. "It will sting for a really long time, but at the same if you know how to use that it can be a fuel for your workouts, a fuel for us to become better individually, a fuel for us to be better as a team. It makes us pick on things that we might not have picked on last year to make sure we are set and ready to go. I think that is important for us. It is something we had to take away from that."
Nurse did get some extra time off after the season in the spring and also spent some time at home in Hamilton, which was welcome. She took classes during the first summer session here efore reporting to Team Canada camp.
In six games in Buenos Aires, she averaged 10.5 points and hit a key shot with 1:27 left in the win over Argentina. By taking gold, Canada clinched a spot in the 2018 FIBA World Cup to be held in Spain.
Nurse represented Canada in the 2014 world championships and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"It was a good summer," Nurse said. "We retired every veteran we had so it was a new group. They're young, exciting and we have a lot to learn. Leading up to the Olympics in Tokyo it will be really good."
Now, her goal is to go out in style with UConn.
If she finishes with the same kind of season she had statistically a year ago, she could have 1,600 points and 500 assists, a plateau reached at UConn only by three-time Wade Trophy winner Maya Moore and two-time All-Americans Renee Montgomery and Bria Hartley.
"Offensively, I expect myself to be a more consistent shooter," said Nurse, who is hitting 43 percent from the floor (including a 1-for-8 performance in the opener against Stanford) and 47 percent from behind the arc. "Toward the end of the season, I was better at that, but there is always another level of consistency that you can get to. I also am working with the mid-range game. And defensively, I just want to continue to become a strict, lock-down defender. I think that's something that is invaluable at some point."
Another positive going forward is, as a senior and another year of experience, she is more comfortable in her leadership role.
"Not as much pressure as I felt last year," Nurse said. "In terms of the leadership, last year we were thrown in and told do what you can. Now you have been through it. You have had the experience, and I think the only way a lot of things are learned is once you gain experience and go through it once."
What she doesn't want to experience again is another defeat.
The Huskies have been impressive in the first 10 days with their wins over then-No. 10 Stanford, No. 20 California, No. 15 Maryland and No. 5 UCLA, the last two wins coming without All-American Katie Lou Samuelson.
Michigan State is also 4-0, but has not faced anywhere near the level of competition UConn has, and Saturday's game is its first outside of Michigan. The Spartans' leading scorer is fifth-year senior Taya Reimer, who was the starting center for Notre Dame in the 2014 and 2015 national championship games against the Huskies, though she has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Senior Branndais Agee is also off to a solid start while freshman Sidney Cooks was a teammate of UConn freshman Megan Walker with the 2016 United States 3x3 team that won a silver medal at the FIBA U-18 world championships. The Huskies and Spartans have split two previous meetings but have not played in 13 years.
A win would give Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma 996 for his career as he closes in on becoming the third women's coach in the 1,000 club.
The Mississippi State loss was Nurse's first as a starter. In the Huskies' other loss during her time in Storrs (in overtime at Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014) she came off the bench. She joined the first five six days later and was perfect through 106 starts.
She's ready for another run. Maybe Nurse will slow down at some point, but only if that means there's no stopping the Huskies.