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GENE'S BLOG: Practical Nurses

In his latest blog, Gene Principe looks at the relationship between Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and his sister Kia

by Gene Principe / Special to

I have three kids. Two boys and a girl. The two boys, who are 18 and 14, get along great. They shoot hoops on the driveway. They play XBox. They don't yet talk about girls or at least not that I know of.

Then there's my daughter, who is almost 16. She gets along well with her younger brother but not quite as well with the older one. They don't really fight a lot but they also don't agree on a lot. Best sports example of it: she cheers for Steph Curry and Golden State. He's all about LeBron James and Cleveland.

In school she isn't really supposed to talk to him and if she does, his responses aren't going to ever be confused as a run-on sentence. Nothing I'm concerned about between two siblings but something I expect will change as they get older and appreciate who they are as people. Sounds like Darnell and Kia Nurse are already there.

"Growing up, people thought we were twins," said brother about his sister. They are only a year apart and yet they still seem even closer than the small 12-month difference in age. "We talk a few times a week," explained the defenceman. Usually we talk a little bit about my hockey and her basketball and then the rest of the 25 minutes we spend talking about family stuff."

Right now a lot of people are talking about Kia Nurse and the UConn women's basketball team. Nurse tied an NCAA record by rattling off nine threes in a game while her team has now recorded an incredible 109 straight victories.

"I remember when I was playing junior in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie)," said the former Greyhound "and we only lost something like one regulation game at home all season. Doesn't quite compare to what her team has done."

Their friendship was born out of their competitive edge and athletic excellence but their fondness developed before they grew into top notch athletes.

"We became best friends when we were little and we still are," is how the 2013 first round pick explained it. "We were always going to each other's sports or to my big sister Tamika's basketball games."

Time spent together now is a lot more difficult to find. Their seasons run at the same time of the year. One is on the East Coast the other the West. It means seeing the other play in person has become a lot less frequent.

"The last time I saw her play was in Edmonton and the Pan Am Games," said the defenceman. "I actually haven't been able to see her play for UConn and she's in her junior year. I'm hoping to get out next season during the NHL All-Star break"

The fact that their sporting lives have separated them with such distance was something no one could have forecasted. It was hard to predict where Darnell would end up but Kia landing at the University of Connecticut was exactly the way the guard wanted her basketball to continue.

"She loved UConn," explained her older brother. "In her senior year they watched her play in a tournament. She committed to them and after the third game of her freshman year she became a starter."

After college, Darnell expects Kia to continue her love for the hardwood by moving on to the WNBA. With that likely being the case, who knows where she might end up in the U.S. If distance makes the heart grow fonder than it's working for the Nurse brother/sister combo.

"I'm her #1 fan," said #25. "I brag about her all the time. I tell anyone and everyone about her."

That's the way it should be and I hope it will be with my sons and their sister.

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