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Basketball world reacts to the loss of Rutgers assistant coach Nikki McCray-Penson



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

There was very sad news on Friday as Rutgers women’s basketball assistant coach Nikki McCray-Penson passed away at the age of 51. She was reportedly reportedly battling cancer and a bout of pneumonia at the time of her death. She joined the Rutgers program last year and served one season under head coach Coquese Washington.

McCray-Penson was a basketball legend. She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year at Tennessee where she played for legendary coach Pat Summit. McCray-Penson was a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist as a player for Team USA. She played nine seasons in the WNBA and was a three-time All-Star. After she retired, McCray-Penson coached for almost two decades including a head coach at both Old Dominion and Mississippi State. She won a national championship as an assistant coach under Dawn Staley at South Carolina. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame among many other honors, her impact on the game is undeniable.

“Today is deeply sad and emotional day for everyone who knew and loved Nikki,” head coach Coquese Washington said. “Nikki had a big smile and an even bigger heart. She was full of life, energy, and was so much fun to be around. Nikki touched the lives of many because she made it her mission to uplift others and help them achieve whatever dreams and goals they expressed. She was so devoted to her husband and son, and still gave all of herself to everyone in the program. We will miss her dearly but will keep Nikki’s memory alive in our hearts.”

Here are several of many tributes honoring the life and legacy of Nikki McCray-Penson.

Former Olympic teammate and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley

Former Rutgers player Abby Streeter

Rutgers player Antonia Bates

Rutgers player Jillian Huerter

Hometown of Collierville, Tennessee

Tennessee Women’s Basketball

Washington Mystics



USA Basketball

Former South Carolina star and WNBA MVP A’Ja Wilson


CBS Evening News


Rest in Peace, Nikki McCray-Penson.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. pj43

    July 8, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    This lady packed a lot into a shortened life and had a positive impact on so many.  It may be a small consolation, but she seems to have had a life well lived.

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