Nurse fulfilling goals after transfer to BG

Andrew Harner and Andrew Harner

Tamika Nurse transferred to BG for two reasons – to play for and win a championship and to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament.

She achieved her first goal this past Saturday when the Falcons beat Toledo for the Mid-American Conference championship.

And she will achieve her second goal tomorrow when the Falcons face Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Louisville.

“It’s incredible,” Nurse said. “I had five chances at [making the NCAA Tournament], so to make it happen on the fifth one is really special. I didn’t want to be that kid who came to college and went all four years and never made it.”

After three disappointing seasons with the University of Oregon, Nurse made the risky decision to transfer to BG before her senior season in hopes of playing more meaningful basketball, even though getting that chance is never guaranteed.

For Nurse, it paid off in more ways than one.

“This is by far my favorite season,” Nurse said. “I played with a lot of teammates at Oregon that I absolutely loved. But this is really a family. This is as close-knit a team that I’ve been on.”

The basketball has been better, too.

At Oregon, Nurse won 45 games while losing 46. In two seasons with the Falcons — the 2008-09 campaign when she had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules and this season when she started 33 games — she has won 56 games and lost only 11, while earning twice as many appearances in the postseason.

Nurse did play in two Women’s National Invitation Tournament games with Oregon as a sophomore, and she said playing in that hostile postseason environment will help her tomorrow.

“At the time it was exciting because it was the first postseason experience I had really played in,” Nurse said. “There were phenomenal teams. We played a very good team in Wyoming in front of a huge crowd at Wyoming.

“A game like that taught me how to play in front of people and to play in an environment where you’re not really the favorite.”

For the first time since January, the 12th-seeded Falcons will not be favorites when they play against the fifth-seeded Spartans tomorrow.

A large contingent of BG fans is expected to travel to Louisville but not enough to give the team a crowd advantage, so it’s still up to the players to make the plays on the court, which Nurse has done all season by averaging 10.7 points and 3.3 assists per game while making nearly 40 percent of her shots.

Coach Curt Miller said that’s not the only positive Nurse has brought to his team, as she has helped his players further appreciate their opportunities.

“Her leadership [and] her desire to win has rubbed off on the kids,” Miller said. “They realize that here’s a kid who transferred for one year with a big goal in mind. They see that she was at a school for three years and didn’t have this opportunity, so don’t take [it] for granted.”

Nurse has been taking extra shots during practice, but more importantly, she is getting as much scouting information on the Spartans as she can to make sure her NCAA Tournament dream doesn’t become a nightmare.

“It’s not like the MAC where you’ve seen each team before [and] where you’re aware of their tendencies from playing and from scouting,” Nurse said. “Here it’s going to be, ‘Here’s your scout. Show up and play.'”