ODU Welcomes New Women's Basketball Head Coach
“We are thrilled to welcome Nikki McCray-Penson to our ODU and Lady Monarch family,” ODU Athletic Director Dr. Selig said.
This past Wednesday, Old Dominion University Athletics welcomed coach Nikki McCray-Penson to their staff from an applicant pool of more than 100. Coach McCray-Penson will be assuming the role of head coach for ODU’s Women’s Basketball team after previous head coach Karen Barefoot resigned after six short years of coaching for the Lady Monarchs.
The ODU Women’s Basketball Team struck gold with hiring McCray-Penson, who is destined to leave a lasting impression on the Monarch community bringing high honors and accolades to her new position. During her collegiate career as a guard at the University of Tennessee, she made four NCAA tournament appearances alongside two conference championships, three SEC regular-season titles all while earning her bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing.
Additionally, McCray is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Class of 2014 Greater Knoxville Sport Hall of Fame recipient, Class of 2015 National High School Hall of Fame winner and a Class of 2012 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
“Coach McCray’s basketball success continued from her playing days into her budding intercollegiate coaching career,” said Dr. Selig. “Coach McCray has competed at the highest level as a student-athlete at Tennessee, where she was named twice the SEC Player of the Year and a Kodak First Team All-American. However, most impressive to us, was Nikki’s twice being named an Academic All-American. We knew we had an excellent blend and balance of athletics and academics in Coach McCray based upon her personal successes while a student-athlete.”
McCray-Penson began her coaching career at Western Kentucky University where she first met Dr. Selig proving how imperative professional connections can be to one’s future success. During her time at WKU, as a recruiter, the Lady Hilltoppers made a WNIT finals appearance (2006-07), a spot in the 2007-08 NCAA Tournament and earned one Sun Belt Tournament title. Following her time at WKU, McCray-Penson accepted a position as assistant coach with the University of South Carolina Game Cocks, where she is credited with recruiting the top player in the country and the nation’s No. 2 recruiting in 2014.
“Blessings come in different forms, but working with Nikki for the last nine years has been life fulfilling. ODU’s past, present and future players and the Lady Monarch community have gotten a gem of a person and head coach.” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.
During her nine years with the Gamecocks, the Women’s Basketball team had five consecutive 25-win seasons and four straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four in 2015. The program also gained its first SEC regular-season championship in 2014 and a 16-0 sweep season in 2015, which is the second time it has occurred in league history. Throughout the past four seasons, the Lady Gamecocks have been ranked among the nation’s top 10 and was awarded a No.1 ranking in the 2016-17 by the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Prior to moving into the exciting and fast paced world of collegiate coaching, McCray-Penson enjoyed an 11-year career in the Women’s National Basketball Association playing for the Washington Mystics (1998-2001), Indiana Fever (2002-03), Phoenix Mercury (2004), San Antonio Stars (2005) and the Chicago Sky (2006). As a professional player, McCray-Penson was a three time WNBA All-Star. Topping it all off, with McCray-Penson’s qualifications, she is ready to tackle her first head coaching position with the Lady Monarchs.
Nikki McCray-Penson marks a new and exciting era in Lady Monarch Basketball bringing a fresh promise of success and transformation to the program. Coach McCray-Penson was formally welcomed to the Monarch Community via open press conference Wednesday May 31, at the new Mitchum Basketball Performance Center. For the latest information in Monarch Sports follow us on twitter at Mace Crown Sports.