Kia Nurse is like most college students in that she'll be home for a good portion of her summer vacation.
What's unique for the UConn women's basketball team's sophomore guard is that home is with Team Canada. The Hamilton, Ontario, native will represent her country when Canada hosts the Pan-American Games next month and the FIBA Americas Championships, a 2016 Olympic qualifier, in August.
"This is a chance for us to show people in Canada how much we've raised our level of play," Nurse said on Thursday. "With the World Cup soccer in Edmonton, the Pan-American Games in Toronto, and our Olympic qualifier in Edmonton, it's a very exciting time."
The women's basketball competition for the Pan-American Games features eight countries -- Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the United States in Group A; Argentina, Canada, Cuba, and Venezuela in Group B -- and takes place July 16-20. UConn senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson will be part of Team USA.
Following the Pan-American Games, Team Canada will look to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics through the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament Aug. 9-16 in Edmonton.
Nurse returned to the UConn campus after wrapping up a six-game trip to Spain and France on June 5. Team Canada compiled a 4-2 record with two wins over Poland and a win each over Great Britain and Italy. Its losses were to 2014 FIBA world championships silver medalist Spain and 2012 Olympic silver medalist France.
"The trip to Europe was really good for us and it gave us some great experience," Nurse said. "It was what we needed at this point as we get ready for the Pan-American Games. We played against some top teams, it was an opportunity to play together and bond, and we got better as a team. It was a win-win-win situation."
On the tour, Nurse averaged 9.5 points (shooting 34.2 percent from the floor, 30.8 percent from 3-point land, and 87.1 percent from the foul line) and 3.2 rebounds. She was in double figures three times, including a 16-point effort against Great Britain when she took just one shot from the floor but made 14-of-15 free throws. She also had a 1-for-11 shooting game in the loss to Spain.
Overall, she was pleased with the way she played.
"My confidence playing with the national team has increased," Nurse said. "I have more experience now. It's a little easier for me to see where I can get shots in our offense and I'm more used to the kind of defense we have to play."
She'll head back to Team Canada training camp on June 28. That will give her a little more times to be with her old and new UConn teammates.
"I was able to take a little time off, take a step back and get off my feet a little bit," Nurse said. "I needed it."
Nurse was the 2015 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year as she averaged 10.2 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from the floor, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. She was the MVP of Gulf Coast Showcase early in the season and while she had her ups and downs on the offensive end she could always be counted on at the defensive end. She became the eighth UConn freshman and the first since Bria Hartley four years earlier to average in double figures scoring and register 100 assists.
She had nine points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 7:08 left, in UConn's 63-53 win over Notre Dame at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 7 that gave the Huskies their third straight national championship and record 10th overall.
She met with UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the season and said she was told to "just work on little things" as she looks to improve in that crucial offseason between freshman and sophomore years. Of course, she'll be spending her time with Team Canada more than with her UConn teammates and doing individual workouts.
"It's a little different when you're involved with the national team," Nurse said. "But there are things that I work on every day. I take some time for myself and I can see myself making strides."
One of Nurse's goals is to play in the Olympics and she could reach it this summer. Team Canada heads into the Pan-American Games and Olympic qualifier coming off a solid fifth-place finish in the 2014 world championships in Turkey. The gold medalist at the Olympic qualifier clinches a bid in Rio.
One of the interesting parts of the Pan-American Games could occur in the medal round if Team Canada and Team USA advance to meet. Nurse spent 39 games last winter playing with Jefferson and Stewart. Now she could go against them and likely match up with Jefferson.
"That could definitely happen," Nurse said with a laugh. "We've played against each other a lot in practice and in individual workouts. Our team defense will have to be good.
"It would be great to play them. I was excited that they were selected to the team because they work hard and they deserve everything that they get. And I'm looking forward to them making the trip and be in my neck of the woods."