Kia Nurse, Liberty rookie, can make immediate impact on defense

Kia Nurse scored 17 points off the bench in her WNBA debut Sunday.
Kia Nurse scored 17 points off the bench in her WNBA debut Sunday. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

In the one-game, second-round WNBA playoffs last year, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver dropped a game-high 32 points with a single-game record nine threes as Washington came back from behind to hand the New York Liberty their second-straight one-and-done in the postseason.

New head coach Katie Smith has emphasized defense with the Liberty this year and rookie guard Kia Nurse out of Connecticut is the one who’s expected to bring that lockdown defense to the team in 2018.

“She knows how to play basketball,” Smith said of the 10th overall pick Nurse from this year’s WNBA Draft. “So, at the end of the day, she’s just always going to give 100 percent and that’s something you can really hang your hat on.”

“My defense is still pretty solid. I’ll take that,” Nurse said. “But it’s definitely a system that I think works well toward my strengths. I’m trying to do all those extra little things and then everything else just falls into place.”

Nurse enters her rookie season with a lot of experience already behind her. She played for the storied UConn women’s basketball program, where she was named the 2018 WBCA Defensive Player of the Year. She averaged 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists along with total 44 steals during the 2017-18 season.

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, she averaged 11 points, including dropping 25 points against Serbia. The Olympic experience, along with her time at UConn, helped prepare her for the pros.

“I think it’s helped in the confidence section of my life,” Nurse said. “When you get to play in tournaments like the Olympics and play with older players from different teams I think it allows you to kind of come in here and understand, ‘Hey, I’ve done this before. Have a confidence in yourself to put yourself out there, make mistakes and come out on top.’ ”

Nurse debuted in Sunday’s 80-76 season-opening loss to the Chicago Sky, scoring 17 points in 29 minutes off the bench. She’ll make her home debut for the Liberty on Friday against the Minnesota Lynx at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.