“It’s like we never left.” What Coming Back to Connecticut Means for Phoenix’s four UConn alumni
Former UConn guard Kia Nurse has a routine every time she plays at Mohegan Sun Arena.
First it’s a trip to Lush for beauty items and / or soaps, then Krispy Kreme for some warm, fresh donuts, and then a trip to Ben and Jerry for a well-deserved post-game milkshake. Cookies and cream always taste good.
For Nurse (2014-2018) and their UConn alumni on the Phoenix Mercury roster, Megan Walker (2017-2020), Bria Hartley (2010-2014) and the great husky Diana Taurasi (2000-2004), mean in Uncasville play more than an excuse to get donuts and ice cream.
It’s a trip back to the state where each of her careers began, playing for Geno Auriemma at UConn in Storrs. Mercury’s 86:78 loss to the Connecticut Sun (2-0) on Sunday night was just another example of how the nutmeg state continues to hold a special place in their hearts.
“It’s great to be back in Connecticut,” said the nurse after the team’s training session on Saturday, during which the four former huskies reunited with Auriemma on the way to the arena in the lobby. “I know every time we come back here the fans are absolutely amazing. It’s like we’ve never left. “
Phoenix (1-1) has the highest number of former UConn players on its roster within the league, with Seattle finishing second with three (Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Katie Lou Samuelson). Only Walker and Nurse overlapped during their time at Storrs, giving the four alumna plenty of stories to swap, including memories of their nights with Ted, which Taurasi described as “the most important thing when you become a UConn Husky”.
“We each represent a different era of huskies basketball, but it all connects us,” said Taurasi.
The four alumni are responsible for ensuring that UConn wins seven of its eleven national titles.
Former Phoenix Mercury standout UConn guard Diana Taurasi (left) shoots Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (right) during the home opening Sunday on Sunday May 16, 2021 in Uncasville, Conn.
Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant via Associated Press
Phoenix Mercury Guard Kia Nurse (0), center, drives to the basket between Connecticut Sun striker DeWanna Bonner (24), left, and Connecticut Sun striker Jonquel Jones (35) during the home game on Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Uncasville, UNITED STATES. Conn.
Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant via AP3of3
“It speaks for a testimony of what Sandy is [Brondello] and coach [Geno Aruiemma] have been building here for the past few years because of the longevity of the UConn players and the WNBA, ”said the nurse. “The ability to have so many players in the league and of course a lot in our team is absolutely incredible. …
“When you get into the league, with a player from UConn, you know how they are going to play, how tough they are, how resilient they are, how hard they play, how smart they have become as basketball players. ”
In February, Phoenix exchanged its picks for the first round in 2021 and 2022 in exchange for Nurse and Walker to New York.
The nurse was voted 10th overall by the Liberty in the 2018 draft. The native Canadian from Hamilton spent her first three professional seasons in New York. Her best year was 2019, when she started 34 games and averaged 13.7 points per game.
Walker led Phoenix’s bench with eight points in 16 minutes on Sunday night. The second-year veterinarian declared herself early in 2020 for the design as a junior and was selected by New York as number 9 in the overall ranking. Had she stayed in her senior season, she would have seen the Huskies make it to the Final Four in the 2021 NCAA tournament.
The 6-foot-1 striker played 18 games in “Wubble” for the Liberty this summer, averaging 3.3 points and 11.4 minutes per game.
After the WNBA season, Walker played the off-season overseas for Sopron Basket in Hungary, where she helped the team win the Hungarian League title and reach the EuroLeague Final Four while leading the course work at UConn.
Walker said she was taking two classes at the same time and had nine credits left to graduate. Despite the seven-hour time difference, she was also able to watch some UConn games this season on her days off.
“I don’t think it’s funny. It’s just a familiar place to me, ”said Walker as he played for Mohegan Sun. “There have been a lot of games during my career here. It’s just a constant reminder of how much success I can have. Just in Mohegan, being in that gym and looking up and just seeing a familiar place is a great feeling to me. “
Hartley had to sit out on Sunday due to a right knee injury. When asked what must-do in Connecticut, Hartley said she was visiting Krispy Kreme and Ben and Jerry. When asked if a slice of pizza was on her list, the native New Yorker from North Babylon said that Connecticut pizza was not a priority for her.
“I feel like New York has the best pizza. I don’t think Connecticut is known for its pizza, ”she said.
When the team’s plane landed in Connecticut and en route to Uncasville, all memories of her historic career came back to Taurasi in a husky uniform. While this weekend’s visit was just a brief three-day business trip, Taurasi is hoping she will return more often with her wife Penny Taylor and their 3-year-old son Leo.
“It’s just nice to be back,” said Taurasi, who only completed 5 of 12 shots for 19 points on Sunday. “On the bus ride from the airport to Mohegan Sun, a lot of nostalgia comes to mind, all the memories, all the trips around the state and how beautiful it is. I really miss “