Phoenix Mercury guard Bria Hartley is nearing her return from a torn ACL and has gotten some immediate support from her new teammate and longtime friend Kia Nurse.
Nurse and Hartley were teammates on the New York Liberty from 2018-19 and became close friends during those two years together.
Hartley left the Liberty and signed with the Mercury as a free agent in 2020.
Nurse was acquired in February in a three-team trade that saw the Mercury ship off two first-round picks to the Liberty and Yvonne Turner to the Atlanta Dream. Being reunited and having Nurse’s support has helped make rehab more bearable, according to Hartley.
“I think it’s easier,” Hartley said. “I mean, at least for me with Kia, having her around I’ll always hit her up or I’ll be like ‘what’re you doing?’ and just go kick it with her.
“So it’s always good to have those type of friends on the team especially when you’re going through something mentally and battling the ups and downs at rehab.”
The two friends share plenty of commonalities, including college roots. Hartley played her college ball at UConn from 2010-14 and Nurse immediately followed her, starring for the Huskies from 2014-18.
Last season, Hartley was having her best season as a pro when she suffered the injury. Hartley averaged 14.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season.
While Hartley won’t be available for the start of the WNBA season, she has progressed in her rehab and has resumed working out and participating in limited on-court activity.
“I’m doing well,” Hartley said. “I’m getting to that stage where I’m doing a lot more on the court and just working on building strength back up and my legs and my knee and my hip just trying to do whatever I can.
“So I’m ready to get on the court. So I’m at the fun part of rehab, just kind of just working out and running and moving on cutting a bit more. So just trying to keep progressing day by day.”
When the time comes for Hartley to return to the court, she’s ready to suit up with Nurse again after a year apart.
“I think we just have those relationships,” Hartley said. “I can get on her and she’s not going to take it personally, she can get on me. I’m not going to take it personally, I know we’re always going to be encouraging each other on the court. So we just have a really good relationship like that. I’m just happy that she’s here.”