Nikki McCray-Penson completed her first season as the head coach of ODU women's basketball in 2017-18 after being named the seventh head coach in program history on May 24, 2017.
In 2018-19, McCray and the Monarchs compiled an 21-11 record and fell in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament. Individual highlights for ODU in 2018-19 included Ajah Wayne's sensational freshman season, as Wayne was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team and to the C-USA All-Defensive Team.
McCray-Penson, who previously served as an assistant coach at South Carolina since May of 2008, helped lead South Carolina to its first-ever National Championship last season. A two-time Olympic gold medal winner and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2012, McCray-Penson reunited with her former 1996 Team USA teammate when she joined head coach Dawn Staley's South Carolina staff as an assistant in May of 2008.
Following an 11-year professional playing career, McCray-Penson moved into the coaching ranks in 2006, spending two seasons at Western Kentucky before joining the Gamecocks. A three-time WNBA All-Star and the 1996-97 American Basketball League's Most Valuable Player, McCray-Penson has proven to be a standout recruiter who helped South Carolina land the nation's No. 2 recruiting class and the top player in the country in 2014.
South Carolina earned four straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds, the program's first coming in 2014. Appearing in the event's Sweet 16 in five of the last six seasons, the Gamecocks reached their first NCAA Final Four in 2015. South Carolina capped the 2016-17 season with its best final national ranking, coming in at No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Gamecocks finished among the nation's top 10 each of the past four seasons.
McCray-Penson takes over the reign of one of the most storied women's basketball programs in college basketball. The Lady Monarchs have over 1,000 program wins, three national championships, 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, 17 conference championships and 55 All-Americans.
McCray-Penson got her start in coaching at Western Kentucky where she played a key role in recruiting. With her on the staff, she helped lead the Lady Toppers to a 49-17 record, which included a WNIT semifinal appearance in 2006-07 and a Sun Belt Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08.
Prior to moving into the coaching world, McCray-Penson enjoyed a nine-year career in the WNBA, following a two-year stint in the ABL. She signed her first professional playing contract with the ABL's Columbus Quest in 1996 and proceeded to lead the team to the league championship, earning league MVP honors along the way. Joining the WNBA's Washington Mystics in 1998, McCray-Penson was the team's leading scorer in each of her first two seasons and played in the WNBA All-Star game three times in her four years in Washington. She earned a starting spot in the league's inaugural All-Star game in 1999 and was the leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards in 2000.
McCray-Penson went on to play five more seasons in the WNBA, spending two with the Indiana Fever and one each with the Phoenix Mercury, the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Chicago Sky prior to her retirement at the end of the 2006 season. With 2,528 points, she finished her career ranked 24th on the WNBA's career scoring list. Averaging 10.1 points per game, she was a career 41.3 percent shooter.
A veteran of international basketball as well, McCray-Penson was part of the USA Basketball program on three separate occasions. Those stints were highlighted by trips to the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000, both of which resulted in gold medals for the United States. She was a key element on the 1995-96 team that spent more than a year together in residency, something never done before in USA Basketball's history. The effort helped the group to 60-0 record in international competition and sparked two professional women's basketball leagues in the United States.
In her four-year career playing under Pat Summitt at Tennessee, McCray-Penson keyed three SEC regular-season titles, two conference tournament championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances for the Lady Vols. In addition to helping UT build a 122-11 record, McCray-Penson picked up All-America and SEC Player of the Year honors in both her junior and senior years. She scored 1,572 career points, a number that still ranks her among the Lady Vols' all-time top 15.