Major League Sports

Why Kia Nurse’s recent run of success should translate to Canadian Olympic team

A near-decade of Canadian women’s basketball success has built to Tokyo 2020.

The fourth-ranked team is eyeing the podium after consecutive quarter-final appearances at London 2012 and Rio 2016, including a tough five-point loss to France in the latter.

In between those two tournaments, Canada won gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, led by a young Kia Nurse.

In the latest episode of CBC Sports video series North Courts, panellists Vivek Jacob, Meghan McPeak and Jevohn Shepherd discuss why Nurse’s recent run of WNBA success with the Phoenix Mercury could portend good things for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics. The trio also picks their starting fives for the team, and shouts out newly named U of T women’s basketball head coach Tamara Tatham.

WATCH | North Courts crew breaks down Canada’s women’s Olympic chances:

Vivek Jacob, Jevohn Shepherd, and Meghan McPeak discuss the WNBA’s #WearOrange initiative, Kia Nurse’s emergence with the Phoenix Mercury, and Team Canada’s lofty expectations heading into the Olympics. 13:07

McPeak, who worked on TSN’s all-women’s broadcast with Nurse for a Toronto Raptors game in March, said it’s the guard’s work ethic that stands out.

“She was doing some of her training at the OVO Centre and I was actually there for testing and I knew she was there so I popped over to say hi and before I went in the door, she was putting in work from beyond the arc. And in, I believe it was six of the shots she took, I don’t think she missed one,” McPeak recalled.

After slumping to a career-low 23.8 three-point percentage amid an ankle injury in 2020, Nurse has responded thus far in 2021 at 38.2 per cent, having nailed 34 of her 89 attempts from beyond the arc.

The most unlikely of those was a game-winning buzzer-beater where Nurse Euro-stepped from just over halfcourt to hand Phoenix a victory.

“It’s a credit not only to the fact that she’s rising to the occasions. She’s playing in less pain, but she’s also putting in the work not just for her time with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, but she knows that that work is going to translate with Team Canada because when it comes to the international play of game, that three-point shot is going to be so important and so lethal,” McPeak said.

WATCH | Nurse’s buzzer-beater and more from 2021 season:

If you love buzzer-beaters, the WNBA has provided more than you could imagine through its first month. 1:02

Nurse’s three-point threat should only open the court up for the Canadian team in Tokyo, forcing opponents to defend from the arc to the key.

Both Nurse and fellow WNBAer Bridget Carleton, of the Minnesota Lynx, appeared on all three panellists’ starting fives for a team expected to get over the quarter-final hump and play for a medal.

“Now there’s a bulls-eye on your back, teams are gunning for you. You’ve been top four,” Shepherd said of Canada’s recent run.

“We know that this team is going to be well-coached, we know that this team has a wide pool of talent, but now you’re the top gun and teams are going to be going after you right from the get-go.”

In the Canadians’ way will be top-three teams U.S., Australia and Spain, the latter of which is grouped with Canada for round-robin play in Tokyo.

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