Over their tenure at UConn, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams won 148 games, losing just three times. They contributed to two national championship teams—part of the greatest run of dominance in the history of the sport—and two more Final Four appearances that ended with 36-1 seasons. At any other school in the country, that would be an unprecedented career of breakthrough excellence.
At UConn, it’s still outstanding, but unfortunately part of their legacy will include falling short of expectations.
This is unfortunate, because they accomplished so damn much and did it all while contributing great character and personality to the story of UConn women’s basketball over the past four years.
Nurse has been a starter since her freshman year. She has been a model of consistency, a solid scorer who developed into an extraordinary defender and 3-point shooter. The Toronto native was a perennial all-conference honoree who also played for the Canadian national team, winning a gold medal at the 2015 Pan-Am Games and also representing her country in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. As a senior, she was an All-American honorable mention and won National Defensive Player of the Year. She’s brought a mature presence to the team and is expected to be a late-1st Round pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft.
“Kia seems to have the wise soul, she’s the one who says things that make her seem older than she is,” ESPN analyst and former UConn star Rebecca Lobo told the Hartford Courant. “When she speaks it seems like she has a slightly different perspective and a more mature perspective than, not just her teammates, but college kids in general.”
Williams developed into one of the most exciting players in all of college basketball. While her classmate Nurse quickly became a starter, Gabby’s path was a bit more of a journey to find her identity for this team. She came to Storrs as a guard but blossomed as a forward, which is really amazing when you think about it—she completely re-invented herself as a player.
Williams earned the AAC Sixth Player of the Year award as a freshman and came off the bench again as a sophomore. She became a starter as a junior and took a quantum leap. By her senior year, she cemented a reputation as the best athlete in the country. She was a two-time WBCA First Team All-American who did a little bit of everything for UConn. This versatility along with elite athleticism make her a potential top-five pick in the WNBA Draft.
“I don’t know that there’s anybody that has been able to do what she’s done at both ends of the floor,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of the Reno, Nevada native. “Making good difficult plays defensively look easy… She’s unique in a lot of ways.”
Williams and Nurse made important contributions to an incredible spell for UConn women’s basketball and did it while representing the University of Connecticut in a way that anyone associated with the school should be proud of. We’re lucky to have had the pleasure of seeing them over the past four years.
“When they look back,” Auriemma said. “They’re going to look at what an amazing career they both had and what a great impact they had on Connecticut basketball and the people that they’ve come in contact with.”