Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot/AP

Coach, College Basketball great and a pioneer of the WNBA passes away at 51.

Nikki McCray-Penson, won two gold medals in basketball for the United States, one in 1996 in Atlanta, and another in 2000, in Sydney, Australia.

In addition, McCray-Penson played for college basketball coaching legend Pat Summit at Tennessee where she was the 2x SEC player of the year in 1994, and 1995 respectively. 

She also was an early star of the WNBA playing most of years in Washington with the Mystics from 1998-2001, but she also made stops in Indiana, Phoenix, and Chicago, and was a three-time WNBA All star.

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And after a long prosperous professional sports career McCray-Penson was building a solid career as a coach.  She coached at Western Kentucky, and under superstar college Coach Dawn Staley at South Carolina where she was a part of a National Championship winning staff In 2017.  Coach Staley had this to say about her assistant coach and former Team USA Teammate, while she was her coaching assistant:

“Nikki is hungry for success, and that comes from playing at Tennessee where the coach never settles for anything less than being number one at whatever she’s doing. That mentality is instilled in Nikki, and I want people around me like that.  She is energetic, confident and engaging- all qualities that you need when you’re coaching and recruiting.”

 McCray-Penson had head jobs at Old Dominion, and Mississippi State where she had to step down in 2021 because of her Breast Cancer, which ultimately took her life.

I’ll always remember Nikki McCray (as she was known back then), as being the Washington Mystics first star player as the fledgling WNBA was first getting start in the late 90’s.

Rest In Peace Champion.

Nikki McCray-Penson is survived by her husband Thomas with whom she went to college at Tennessee with, and a 10-year-old son.