Whitehall Borough's Belma Nurkic, a Baldwin High School product, is used to winning.
The 5-foot-8 guard helped and often led the Baldwin girls basketball team to three WPIAL playoffs appearances in her four high school seasons, including two appearances in the state playoffs and a WPIAL runner-up campaign.
Figures then that Nurkic has been a great fit at Duquesne University, where the now-sophomore has been big a part of the 2012-13 Dukes' 17-3 overall record, including a 6-0 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference, good for a first-place tie.
A season ago, Nurkic, on a basketball scholarship at Duquesne, saw action in every game for the Dukes—averaging 3.4 points—and helped them to a 20-12 mark and a berth in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
This year, with Nurkic starting every game so far—averaging 8.0 points per game—the Dukes have set their eyes on bigger things, possibly an Atlantic 10 title and a berth in the NCAA Division I championships tournament, which would be a first for Duquesne's women's hoops.
In fact, conference title or not, Nurkic and the Dukes still have a realistic shot of entering the NCAA tournament this year. Duquesne has received votes in several of the national women's top 25 polls this season, including the latest version from The Associated Press, and could earn an at-large bid.
"I think we can (reach the NCAA tournament)," Nurkic said in a Thursday article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I believe we can do big things. I can see us winning the Atlantic 10 and making it to the NCAAs.
"I don't want to jinx us, but I think we can go as far as we want if we continue playing together. We have the power to make ourselves go further. There's something special about this team."
Nurkic was born in Bosnia and moved to Germany and then to Holland before finally relocating to Whitehall when war broke out in her native country, according to the P-G article.
An international relief agency was to thank for bringing Nurkic to the United States. Thankful are both Nurkic and Baldwin, as the all-everything guard brought several accolades to the Highlanders, including many local awards and even a first-team all-state honor—not to mention, of course, a combined 71-28 record in her four high school seasons.
Count Duquesne as those pretty thankful for the Nurkic import, as well, especially if this Dukes' impressive season keeps up.
Duquesne next plays on Sunday at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in a 2 p.m. conference game.
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