The 2019 WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas will feature five newcomers. For these players, the weekend will represent the first time they are officially recognized among their contemporaries as elite.
For one of those players — 23-year-old Kia Nurse, who was chosen as a starter in just her 2nd season in the league — it also represents yet another checked box on her journey to what appears will be stardom. She has become a key piece for a New York Liberty team fighting to make the Playoffs and figures to be big part of the franchise’s future plans.
Nurse shoots and makes a lot of three-pointers. She currently ranks fourth in the league in total 3PM (38) and fifth in long-range attempts (104). The All-Star has a quick release and can gather and shoot in a split-second, allowing her to get off shots with only an inch of space. She’s a threat both on the catch and off the dribble.
At 6’0”, Nurse uses a variety of hesitation moves to clear space. Her crafty footwork results in plenty of stumbling defenders, who can never be sure what move will come next — generating free-throw opportunities. Nurse’s 67 FTM on the season is third in the league, while she shoots 91.8 percent from the charity stripe. She stays composed even when in traffic and under pressure, probing for passing angles and scoring chances.
These impressive skills have served Nurse well so far in 2019. She is averaging 16.3 points per game on 42.0 percent shooting (36.5 percent from deep).
Nurse is fulfilling the high expectations which have followed her since college. Nurse played four seasons at the University of Connecticut, winning two NCAA championships. New York selected her No. 10 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, anticipating that she could make an immediate impact on the court.
She did just that.
Nurse earned plenty of trust and playing time her rookie season, averaging 9.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 22.8 minutes per game, while shooting 87.0% from the free throw line. She received seven starts.
“Every morning I wake up, I’m fortunate to be in this position with such a great coaching staff, such great teammates and an organization that has such a great fan base as well,” Nurse told WNBA.com in 2018.
Now in her second season, the blossoming star has noticeably improved. She has career-best averages in almost every category — minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. The Liberty, meanwhile, already have as many wins (7) as they did all of last year, with Nurse solidifying their backcourt. Her game blends well with fellow All-Star Tina Charles, making for an inside-outside combination that makes New York’s offense dangerous from any part of the court.
Looking ahead, Nurse will try to lead the Liberty back to the Playoffs in a crowded and competitive field. New York currently sits in ninth place with a 7-10 record, only three games back of the third-seeded Washington Mystics. With a star guard leading the way, there is sure to be a lot of excitement in Westchester down the stretch.