STORRS - Gabby Williams figured sheâd take a few minutes to lend a hand to a teammate. Little did she know it was the beginning of a friendship that she and Kia Nurse believe will last a lifetime.
âI didnât know her. I didnât know anyone that was here,â Nurse said. âBut Gabby helped me move my bed into my dorm room and that was big for us. I was like, âShe would do this for me?â We went to lunch the next day and we became best friends.â
Their four-year careers with the UConn womenâs basketball team are winding down. They were honored during Senior Night ceremonies Monday, including Williamsâ induction into the Huskies of Honor as a 2017 WBCA All-American.
Time flies when youâre winning 140 games, two national championships, four regular season AAC titles and three AAC Tournament crowns (and counting).
âI had seen Kia on social media and things like that before she got here, but we had never talked before,â Williams said. âIt was kind of funny. I mean, I met her and it was like, âI kind of feel like I know you.â So I said that and it was like the most awkward encounter ever. She seemed very opposite of what she is now. I thought sheâd be quiet and low key, and now she never stops talking.â
But as they talked, they found that they had similar interests.
One thing, or person to be exact, stood out - Beyonce.
âWhen youâre an 18-year-old girl, thatâs something you can build a friendship on,â Nurse said.
âOne of the earliest things was we both loved Beyonce,â Williams said. âEveryone had been telling us about how well weâd get along. From there, weâve just been through so much together starting with our freshman year and time has made us closer.â
Their impact on the basketball court was felt from the start, though their second game - a loss at Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014 - was a turning point.
Nurse has not come off the bench since. Her record as a starter is 135-1, as she missed four games as a junior with an ankle injury. Williams did not play - coachâs decision - and admits she was not ready to play in that kind of game then. Since then she has become one of the Huskiesâ most reliable big-game players and an All-American.
The growth continues to this day with, they hope, 10 games to go.
âGabby still makes plays and Iâll look at her and go, âI donât know how you did that,â â Nurse said. âShe can read a play before it happens. Before you cut, she knows what youâre going to do and she finds you when youâre open and where youâre open. Her passes are spectacularly on time, on target.
âItâs the same off the court. When you come here and youâre in this position and as far away from home as she is, you learn to be responsible and accountable. You get your stuff done when you have to get it done. Thatâs something she does on a consistent basis. You never worry about her.â
Nurse has gone on to play for her native Canada in the Olympics and has been named an academic All-American. Sheâs also put together her best season as a senior and will give All-American voters something to think about in the next month.
âKiaâs faced a lot of adversity since sheâs been here,â Williams said. âOn the court, being part of this program is not easy. Yet she keeps learning. Off the court, weâre not afraid to say anything to each other. The closer weâve become, the more weâve been able to be honest with each other.â
Of course, being around each other as much as teammates are means you learn about their idiosyncrasies as well as theyâre traits that make a person who they are.
Williams and Nurse know each other too well, it seems.
âGabbyâs pretty nerdy when it comes to puzzles, and Marvel movies and comic books,â Nurse said. âSome people know that she likes Captain America, but itâs crazy. I have to sit down and have a full conversation with her about whatâs going on.â
And sometimes those conversations are held at the dinner table.
âKia loves ketchup,â Williams said. âI donât think a human should love ketchup like she does. Sheâll put it on everything.â
Another point they agree on: Theyâre better with each other than they wouldâve ever been without each other.
âI remember our freshman year and I was struggling to learn the plays,â Williams said. âI went to her dorm and we were drawing on the mirror with markers so she could help me learn the plays. Sheâs always taking the time to make sure Iâm good, on and off the court.â
âWeâve been through ups and downs together,â Nurse added. âFortunately, weâve had the ability to go to one another, just sit down, and talk things through.â
In a couple of months, those discussions will likely not be face to face.
Williams and Nurse are projected to be first-round picks in Aprilâs WNBA Draft and are likely headed to different destinations.
But they have a plan to stay in touch.
âFortunately in this day and age those little cell phone computers we hang in our pockets will help and be a big part of that,â Nurse said. âI know that if I ever need anything that she will be there for me. Sheâll always be a phone call away. And Iâll probably be watching figure skating somewhere and Iâll think about her and sheâll tell me what they did right and what they did wrong, and what score they should have got.â
Yes, Williams loves figure skating and says she was a figure skater in a past life.
A third national championship in four years would make the separation easier.
âWeâve talked about it and weâre not looking forward to it,â Williams said. âWe know we wonât see each other every day anymore but we donât lose that connection.â
UConn brought them together. And with their success in four years here, theyâll be together forever.