5,006 miles away from home: Rauno Nurger finds ‘home away from home’
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Junior center Rauno Nurger is a long way from home.
5,006 miles to be exact.
Nurger is from Kella, a town in Estonia. Nurger played on the national team for Estonia at the 2013 FIBA U-20 European Championship.
Following that, Nurger attended Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep school, where he played alongside teammate Zach Brown.
In the summer of 2014, Nurger committed to Wichita State, and has played there ever since.
Wichita and Estonia has an eight hour time difference, Estonia being eight hours ahead. Nurger said his parents try to keep up with every game they can.
“[My parents] try to watch most of the games they can. It’s really hard for them to watch most of the games since there is an eight hour difference,” Nurger said. “Most of the time when we are playing a game it’s 3 a.m. back home.”
Basketball is not as popular in Estonia as it is in America, so the sport was new to Nurger’s parents. Regardless, Nurger’s parents find ways to support him for every game.
“They try to call me the next day after the game and skype so we can talk,” Nurger said. “To be honest they didn’t really know a lot about basketball before I started playing. When I started playing is when they started catching up on basketball.”
Nurger’s parents have never been to America to watch a game. His parents are planning on visiting for the first time for his senior year next year.
“His parents actually rarely get to watch his games because of the difference in time, but they keep up with him and the team through the internet and articles,” Nurger’s girlfriend, WSU volleyball player Hanna Shelton, said. “It will mean a lot to him to have some of his family members in Wichita for Senior Night next season since they haven’t been to the States before.”
Nurger gets a chance to go back home every summer, and will get to this year for only a few weeks.
“I go back every summer I try to go home after my last exam and then we have to be back [to Wichita] in June, so I only get 2-3 weeks back home,” Nurger said.
With his family being so far away from home, he looks to his team, friends, and girlfriend to be his support system, especially for days he misses home a little extra.
“Whenever he starts missing home I usually try to bring him around my family more, we go eat at my parents or grandparents houses often,” Shelton said. “I always try to be as supportive as possible. I go to as many games as I can and try to be there for him with whatever he needs whether it be a pep talk or rubbing out sore muscles caused from tough practices.”
Shelton said her and Nurger can relate to the life of playing a sport at the higher level and says Nurger supports her as much as she supports him.
“He is just as supportive when it comes to volleyball. He understands what’s it’s like to spend 20 hours in the gym every week or what it feels like to have a bad practice,” Shelton said. “I think we have both appreciate that about each other because few people can really relate.”
Between teammates, friends and his girlfriend, Nurger has found his “home away from home.”