Kia Nurse is about to go for a hat trick.
In April, Nurse helped the University of Connecticut women's basketball team win its third straight national championship. Last month, she led the Canadian senior national team to its first gold medal at the Pan American Games.
On Sunday, Nurse and Team Canada will begin their bid to earn a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when they take on Puerto Rico in their first game of Group A pool play at the FIBA Americas Championship being held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
"This tournament is huge," Nurse told the Waterbury (Connecticut) Republican-American. "It has been our ultimate goal all summer. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. To be fortunate to have big games at home twice in the same year is fantastic. It was also a chance for us to show how great of a team we are. In the Pan Am Games that was fabulous and now this is the big go-to where we need to perform and peak.
"There is just a little bit of added pressure. Your main goal throughout the four years you are working is to get to the Olympics, and then doing well and performing well there. This is the first step in that. It is something we have to get through, but we are pretty confident in it."
Team Canada will continue Group A play Monday against Chile and Tuesday versus the Dominican Republic. After a day off Wednesday, Team Canada will complete pool play against Cuba Thursday. The top two teams in Group A and Group B advance to the semifinals Saturday with the gold medal game being played Aug. 16.
The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the 2016 Olympic Games. But on Sunday, Brazil was granted a berth as the host country. If Brazil wins the FIBA Americas crown, the second-place team will also advance to Rio de Janeiro.
The United States, coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma, has already clinched a 2016 Olympic berth by virtue of winning the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA world championships.
Nurse -- a 6-foot sophomore guard for Auriemma's Huskies -- is coming off the game of her life.
The Hamilton, Ontario native, had 33 points (hitting 10-of-17 shots from the floor and 11-of-12 free throws) to go along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals as Team Canada defeated Team USA 81-73 before a capacity crowd of 3,300 in Toronto.
"I'm still pinching myself a little bit," Nurse said. "Sometimes I'm like, 'Wow, I don't know how that happened.' I definitely have high expectations for myself, but I exceeded them a little bit while I was out there. It was such a good feeling to be a zone like that.
"It's hard to put into words. I definitely think there was an adrenaline rush that entire game, because at warm-ups I was feeling extremely tired. They turned me into someone who gets pumped all the time. That emotion and that passion that was running through the gym that night was incredible, and I just fed off of it."
She was unstoppable that July 20 night, even going up against her UConn teammate, senior All-American Moriah Jefferson.
Nurse had 17 points at halftime as Team Canada came back from an early deficit. She converted a pair of three-point plays in the fourth quarter as Team USA tried to rally from 18 points down. Then with 4:30 left -- in a scary moment for the players and UConn fans -- Jefferson and butted heads while going for a loose ball. Nurse was able to return but Jefferson ended up watching the final minutes with an ice pack on the back of her head and was later diagnosed with a concussion.
"She's doing well now," Nurse said. "It was kind of a shock at the time. I saw somebody diving at the same time I was so I figured I was going to hit heads with somebody. I did not know it was Mo. When I got up, I was down for a little bit just trying to regain my sense. You get shocked for a second. When I turned around and saw it was Mo, I was a little concerned for her. We went into the locker room and talked to the doctors and I said, 'I'm OK. I can go again,' and they let me back out on the court."
Nurse's career high a season ago at UConn was 22 points against Creighton.
In joining Mel Thomas and Charde Houston as the only UConn players to win Pan Am gold, Nurse averaged a team-high 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in a team-leading 25.8 minutes per game for Team Canada (5-0). She shot 47.8 percent from the floor, 46.2 percent from 3-point land, and 85.7 percent from the foul line.
"I think the gold medal game of the Pan Ams was probably one of the best games I have had in a really long time," Nurse said. "It's good to have that under your belt and have a confidence booster going into not only this tournament but next season with Connecticut.
"We were tingling for quite awhile. We did a good job of making sure that we celebrated, because we don't get to celebrate at home with our family and friends very often. So we did that. We celebrated the gold and the history that we made. We were really proud of ourselves, but we also knew that we were going to have to put it aside and move on to our Olympic qualifier, because that is the main goal for the summer."
Team Canada is looking to qualify for its second straight Olympic Games. It finished fifth in the 2014 FIBA world championship. Cuba is the defending FIBA Americas champion.