SWFL, FGCU have special place in hearts of Raptors’ coach and wife

The defending NBA champions are in Southwest Florida getting ready for the 2020 season restart. The Toronto Raptors are training at FGCU’s Alico Arena ahead of their trip to Disney World to get back to business. But why is a team from Canada practicing here in Southwest Florida?

One of the reasons: Former FGCU volleyball star Roberta Nurse thinks of Southwest Florida as home. Oh, she’s also married to Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. And he too has a soft spot for the region.

Roberta is paying close attention to the continued spike in positive coronavirus cases in Florida ahead of a decision to come join her husband and the team.

We talked with Roberta and Nick via Zoom Wednesday about their strong ties to Southwest Florida and trying to win a championship during a pandemic.

“Florida Gulf Coast has a special place in my heart,” Roberta said. “We were regular season champs two years in a row.”

“I’m going to be a transplanted Southwest Floridian someday,” Nick said. “We love the area, great, great area.”

Coach Nurse said that definitely added to what brought him and the Raptors to the region, but not entirely.

“It’s part of the reason,” Nick said. “It’s kind of a little bit more ironic than that. We were searching for a place near Orlando.

Toronto needed a place in the U.S. to practice, and the Nurse family knew just the place.

“I didn’t even know what I was going to do with my life once I graduated Florida Gulf Coast, let alone that my husband was going to go back there for training camp as an NBA champion. It’s really crazy,” Roberta said.

Roberta is still with her kids in Toronto, very aware of the spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida.

“… I feel totally safe,” Roberta said. “They are being very cautious. I mean, it’s the NBA. I think their protocol to keep everyone safe is amazing.”

Nick told us life is simple here in Southwest Florida. He and his team live in a hotel, go to Alico Arena to practice, working with just four guys at a time, with masks, then back to the hotel.

And Nick said they’re testing like crazy.

Roberta said she still follows the FGCU volleyball team, and Fort Myers has a special place in her heart.

Pretty soon, every NBA team will come together just outside Orlando at Disney World to finish the regular season and then enter the playoffs to eventually crown a 2020 champion.

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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