Nikki McCray-Penson, a renowned basketball player and coach, has passed away at the age of 51. She was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and received the MVP award in the American Basketball League (ABL). McCray-Penson battled breast cancer since her diagnosis in 2013. She made significant contributions to the sport, including her tenure as an assistant coach alongside Dawn Staley at South Carolina from 2008 to 2017, where she played a role in the team’s first national championship win in 2017. McCray-Penson achieved success on the international stage, winning gold medals with the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. The success of the 1996 team led to the formation of both the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and ABL.
Career of Nikki McCray-Penson
McCray played for the ABL and earned the MVP title in 1997 before transitioning to the WNBA. During her time with the Washington Mystics, McCray-Penson became a three-time All-Star. After an eight-season career in the WNBA, she retired in 2006. McCray-Penson continued her involvement in basketball as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky for three seasons. She later became the head coach at Old Dominion, achieving a 24-6 record in 2020. Due to health concerns, she stepped down after one year at Mississippi State but returned to coaching at Rutgers for the previous season. McCray-Penson’s collegiate career took place at the University of Tennessee from 1991 to 1995 under the guidance of the esteemed coach Pat Summitt. As a guard, she was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and received the Kodak All-America recognition during her junior and senior seasons. In 2012, she was honored with induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.