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ISTANBUL – UConn star Breanna Stewart and freshman teammate Kia Nurse have had more than basketball to focus on at the women's world championship. They also have to keep up with school work from nearly 5,000 miles away.
Both will have missed about a month of college to play for their national teams — Stewart with the U.S.; Nurse with Canada.
This is the third straight world championship in which the Americans have had a college player on the team. Candace Parker was on the 2006 squad while still playing at Tennessee.
Stewart, who is beginning her junior year, has three of her classes online so she hasn't had to miss them. She's just been doing homework while traveling to Paris, Prague and Istanbul with the national team.
"Week by week I just have to organize myself and prioritize time management to get the work done," the reigning AP women's college basketball player of the year said. "The one class I'm missing I know some people in it, and if there are notes they send them to me."
Stewart also can turn to U.S. teammate Maya Moore, who was in the same position in 2010 when she was at UConn and on the American team that won gold in the Czech Republic.
"I talked to (Moore) a little bit," Stewart said. "I'm taking some of the classes she took when she missed the month long period. Our academic advisors realized that and planned the way she planned."
Geno Auriemma, coach of the U.S. and UConn teams, has been impressed with how Stewart has balanced the demands.
"Just watching her, she's handling it pretty well," he said. "She's been down this road before. Other people at school understand that's the price you have for being so good at a young age. You have to juggle a lot of things. It will be something that she'll look back on as a great experience for her."
Nurse, who helped Canada reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994, agreed with Stewart that the key to success is time management.
"That's the big part of being an elite athlete," Nurse said. "Even though I'm the only one studying on the team, I find time every day. I've got an agenda all planned out, with what needs to be done each day for each class so that I can keep up and transition back to the classroom easily when I return."
Nurse said she's taking one of her freshmen class online and missing the others.
"My academic advisor is great, she helps me keep on top of everything. She's the go-between me and my teachers. I'm in contact with her each day and regular receive messages from teachers as well about what has been covered in class."
The players have managed to stay caught up on their assignments.
"Kia and Breanna have been doing a great job while away keeping up with their academics," said Ellen Trip, the Associate Athletic Director for Intercollegiate Athletics at UConn. "Many of their reading assignments are available online so that has been extremely helpful. We've been very impressed with both young women and expect a seamless transition when they come back next week."
The UConn players aren't the student-athletes in Turkey balancing academics and international hoops.
Nurse would have a partner in "study hall" if Canada teammate Nirra Fields' classes had started at UCLA. But the university is on a quarter system and classes at UCLA didn't begin until Wednesday.
Fields, a junior, only has classes on Tuesday and Thursday this semester, so will end up missing one class with Canada advancing to play Friday.
Spanish player Leticia Romero has also had to adjust her academic schedule.
She is in her first year at Florida State after a highly publicized transfer from Kansas State finally was approved by the school.
"Leticia is taking a mixed schedule of in-class and online classes and she met with all her in-classroom instructors before she left," Florida State academic advisor Charlie Hogan said in an email. "She was enrolled at FSU this summer which allowed her to learn the new campus and online class setup before she left for her national team."
But Leticia will have a little more time catching up on academics than the other college players in the tournament. She has to sit out the upcoming basketball season because of NCAA transfer rules.
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