Nikki McCray-Penson, Former Tennessee Basketball Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Passes Away at 51

Nikki McCray-Penson, Former Tennessee Basketball Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Passes Away at 51
Nikki McCray-Penson, Former Tennessee Basketball Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Passes Away at 51

A prominent figure in women’s basketball:

Nikki McCray-Penson, a prominent figure in women’s basketball as a former Tennessee Lady Vols star and Olympic gold medalist, has passed away at the age of 51. The Rutgers women’s basketball program announced her untimely death, leaving the basketball community mourning the loss of a talented player and respected coach. McCray-Penson’s remarkable career and contributions to the sport have left an indelible mark.

A Stellar Collegiate Career:

During her time at the University of Tennessee, McCray-Penson earned accolades as she was named the SEC Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995. As a skilled point guard, she averaged 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game throughout her four years at the school. Her junior year, in particular, stood out with an impressive average of 16.3 points per game. McCray-Penson played a crucial role in the Lady Vols’ success, helping secure three SEC regular-season championships, two SEC Tournament titles, and an appearance in the 1995 Final Four.

Professional Achievements:

After her collegiate career, McCray-Penson continued to excel in basketball. She played in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) for teams such as the Washington Mystics, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, San Antonio Silver Stars, and Chicago Sky. In her WNBA career, she scored 2,550 points and was selected to the WNBA All-Star Game three times (1999-2001). McCray-Penson also showcased her skills on the international stage, representing the United States and earning two gold medals as a member of the women’s Olympic team in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics.

Transition to Coaching:

Following her retirement from playing, McCray-Penson embarked on a successful coaching career spanning 16 years. In 2012, she was honored with induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. McCray-Penson began coaching in 2006 as an assistant at Western Kentucky before joining South Carolina as an assistant under the legendary Dawn Staley. During her tenure with the Gamecocks, she contributed to a national championship-winning team in her final season. McCray-Penson later became the head coach at Old Dominion and then Mississippi State, where she made a significant impact before resigning due to health concerns in 2021.

Legacy and Impact:

McCray-Penson’s legacy extends beyond her on-court achievements. She courageously battled breast cancer in 2013 and overcame the disease, demonstrating her resilience and determination. As a respected coach, she influenced countless players and made lasting contributions to the game. Her passion for basketball and dedication to her craft were evident throughout her career, inspiring others to pursue their dreams in the sport.

Basketball community mourns:

The basketball community mourns the loss of Nikki McCray-Penson, a remarkable athlete, and coach. Her impact as a Tennessee Lady Vol, WNBA player, Olympic gold medalist, and coaching figure will forever be remembered. McCray-Penson’s contributions to women’s basketball have left an enduring legacy, inspiring future generations and serving as a testament to her talent and perseverance. She will be deeply missed, and her memory will continue to inspire those who follow in her footsteps.


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