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Nurse to star at Rogers Place, but it's Kia with WNBA, not Darnell's NHL

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There's another Nurse coming to town, and no, she doesn't play hockey.

Kia Nurse is major league, though, just like her brother Darnell, who Edmonton sports fans know as a defenceman starring for the National Hockey League's Oilers.

Kia is a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks, who will face the Seattle Storm, her former team, in a Women's National Basketball Association exhibition game at Edmonton's Rogers Place on May 4.

Nurse has also starred for the New York Liberty and the Phoenix Mercury since turning pro in 2018 after a NCAA collegiate career with the University of Connecticut.

The exhibition game was originally scheduled for May 5 but was moved a day earlier to accommodate a potential Game 7 in the Oilers' current playoff series against the L.A. Kings.

And while Kia is technically the one crashing Darnell's sports home next month, Darnell and other family will be spending time soon in L.A., too, where Kia and the Sparks are soon to open their season following training camp.

"I think what I'm really excited about is we have actually kind of missed each other in the last couple of years and (now I can) cross over and see a playoff series," Kia told media during an online availability on Tuesday.

"My parents are coming here. I also live here (in L.A.) so I guess we can all get dinner together, and then D's going to play his games and we're going to go watch them and then come back to Edmonton, so I get a full extra week of my family, which is nice."

The prospect of playing a WNBA game in her home country is something the 28-year-old is excited for, not only as a point of pride for the women's national team member but also so family and Canadian fans can see her and others play live.

"Sometimes, we talk about it a lot with our national team, especially that we're not often at home and there's not many opportunities for our family to be there in person to see us on home soil," said the native of Hamilton, Ont.

"I'm excited about that and that opportunity to continue to be able to bring women's basketball at the highest level to Canada and allow fans I know on the west coast especially to be able to have the opportunity to see that in person."

And while Nurse has her brother as a link to Edmonton, she has a personal one, too: multiple national team training camps she attended in Alberta's capital city.

"There's so much history and beautiful history around women's basketball with the Edmonton Grads and that's something that we got to learn a lot about when we were there," Nurse said of the city's storied women's basketball powerhouse of a century ago.

"For me, playing in Edmonton I thought was something that is full circle from that really young age of being there with the national team to now being in the hopefully the middle and hopefully the prime of my career."

And she's encouraged by the women's hoops talent she is seeing coming out of her home country.

"We've got talent out the whazoo coming out of Canada and it's no longer just players that are going to the NCAA or playing those roles where they come off the bench for 10 or 15 minutes, we've got stars," she said.

"We're talking about stars of TSN's March Madness tournament for a reason and they're Canadians and it's so exciting to kind of have that, and from what I've seen in our little young program, it's only going to get bigger and there's only going to be more of them.

Nurse said it's also evident that interest in the women's game is growing on this side of the border given the response to the first time the WNBA staged a game in Canada: a sellout last year at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena for an exhibition game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Chicago Sky

"I think there has to be a place in Canada for our young women to see that because if this is happening now and they're not seeing that live every single weekend or every season for WNBA, think about what a (Canadian) team does to that next generation." 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson

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