HARTFORD, Conn. -- Kia Nurse made headlines in Canada the night of Dec. 22 as she scored 24 points for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in her homecoming game against Duquesne at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
But that wasn't the biggest news of the day in her family. That afternoon, her cousin, Sarah, was among 23 players named to the Canadian women's ice hockey team that will take part in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 9-25.
"She'll probably be the first member of the Nurse family to come home with an Olympic medal, most likely gold," Kia Nurse said. "I'm not going to lie. They are very good and she is very good."
Team Canada will be seeking its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal in South Korea. The only time it won silver was in the first competition in 1998, losing to the United States in the final in Nagano, Japan.
Sarah Nurse, a forward, wrapped up a stellar four-year career at the University of Wisconsin last March. She had a career high 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) as a senior and earned second-team All-America honors. Her 76 career goals ranks eighth in Badgers' history and she recorded 176 career points.
She helped Wisconsin win three WCHA tournament titles and two WCHA regular-season crowns, and the Badgers reached the NCAA Frozen Four in each of her years. But while Kia Nurse won two national championships in her first three years at UConn, Sarah Nurse was denied each time as the Badgers fell in the national semifinals her first three seasons and then dropped a 3-0 decision to Clarkson in the 2017 title game.
Among the first people to congratulate her on making the Olympic team was her cousin and Kia Nurse's brother Darnell, a defenseman with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, who tweeted, "Can't wait to watch her represent our country!" Since UConn players don't tweet in season, Kia Nurse had to wait. The cousins got to spend time together during the holiday as they grew up five minutes apart in Hamilton, Ontario.
"It was a lot of fun to be around her," Kia Nurse said.
Sarah Nurse's family also has strong athletic ties as her father, Roger, was a lacrosse player and is now a referee in the National Lacrosse League while her 18-year-old brother Isaac plays hockey with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL.
Kia Nurse represented her country at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. She averaged 11.0 points and 2.3 assists in six games -- including a 25-point effort in a pool-play win over eventual bronze medalist Serbia -- as Team Canada placed seventh.
She has high hopes of making it to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games. Team Canada has already qualified for the 2018 FIBA World Cup in Spain, though it would take winning the gold medal there to clinch a spot in 2020. Canada's more likely route to Tokyo will be through the 2019 FIBA Americas Championship.
The strong start to her senior year at UConn continued Sunday as she had 16 points in the top-ranked Huskies' 97-49 American Athletic Conference win over Memphis at the XL Center. It was her career-best tying 10th consecutive game in double figures. For the season she is averaging 16.2 points and is shooting 58.2 percent from the floor, 52.5 percent from 3-point land, and 84.0 percent from the foul line.
UConn will be back in AAC action Wednesday at East Carolina (SNY, 7 p.m.).
For the next several weeks, she'll be thrilled to share the family spotlight.
"Their experience will be a little different than ours as we didn't do the opening ceremonies because we had a game the next day," Kia Nurse said. "It's a different experience, a different culture, and it will be fun. My family is excited to get there."
While calendar year 2018 got underway at midnight, UConn can already look ahead a bit to next year. The Huskies' tentative 2018-19 non-league schedule has fallen into place.
Many games are continuations of series and were already known. The latest addition, though, will be the first home-and-home with Vanderbilt out of the Southeastern Conference. The Huskies and Commodores have played six times -- three times in NCAA tournament play and three times in in-season tournament action including the 2001 Preseason WNIT final at Gampel Pavilion -- with UConn leading 4-2.
The Huskies will host Vanderbilt in 2018-19 and will travel to Nashville during the 2019-20 campaign with that game serving as a homecoming for UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield, who grew up about 35 miles away in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It will also be UConn's first time in Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium since March 21, 1992. The Commodores defeated the Huskies 75-47 to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 and the contest still marks UConn's only true road game of its 131-game NCAA tournament history.
The Huskies' last visit to Nashville ended with them winning the 2014 national championship at Bridgestone Arena.
UConn will also entertain Ohio State in 2018-19. The Huskies and Buckeyes had agreed to an extension of a series that started in 2015 and were originally slated to play in the Countdown to Columbus at Nationwide Arena in November with Stanford taking on Louisville in the second game of the event. But team travel for Stanford and television logistics required a change in opponents, and UConn opened with the Cardinal. The Huskies' return trip to Columbus in 2019-20 could allow them to play back-to-back games in Ohio as they are scheduled to visit Dayton that season.
So, barring changes, the 14-game non-league schedule for 2018-19 will have UConn hosting DePaul, Ohio State, Seton Hall, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and visiting Baylor, California, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Saint Louis (homecoming game for Napheesa Collier). The Huskies will also play three games at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
STILL THE 1
UConn (11-0) remained the unanimous top team in the Associated Press poll released Monday. The Huskies received all 32 first-place votes for the ninth consecutive week.
The top five remained the same as UConn was followed by Notre Dame, Louisville, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.
Stanford, which saw its streak of 312 consecutive appearances in the Top 25 end last week, re-entered at No. 24 following wins over then-No. 11 UCLA and Southern California. Arizona State also entered at No. 25.
South Florida, which was No. 25 a week ago and hosts UConn Saturday(SNY, 7 p.m.) at the Sun Dome in Tampa, dropped out even though the Bulls (11-3) won their only game of the week 75-46 over Tulane on Sunday and received 26 more points than it did a week ago (65-39). The Sun Devils edged out USF by two points for the 25th spot.
Green Bay also fell out of the Top 25 following a loss to Northern Kentucky.
Top 2019 recruit Samantha Brunelle (6-foot-2 forward, Ruckersville, Virginia) took an unofficial visit to UConn this weekend and was at Sunday's game against Memphis. Also at the game was 2021 recruit Saylor Poffenbarger, a 6-foot-1 forward at Middletown High in Maryland ... The Huskies' win was their 70th straight at home and gave them sole possession of the third-longest home winning streak in NCAA history. UConn also won 69 in a row from 2000-04. The Huskies broke the 69-game home winning streaks of Tennessee (2006) and Baylor (2014). UConn has the top home winning streak of 99, with Stanford second at 82. The Cardinal's streak was broken by UConn in 2012 ... UConn coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey were given framed UConn uniforms with the number 1,000 by athletic director David Benedict in honor of reaching that plateau on Dec. 19.