After a great college career at the University of Tennessee, she won two gold medals at the Olympics, played for nine years in the Women’s National Basketball Association, and was the head coach at two universities.
Nikki McCray’s Cause of Death
Nikki McCray-Penson, who used to teach for both Old Dominion and Ole Miss, died on Friday morning. People who used to work with her or who played for her sent her a lot of heartfelt sympathy.
McCray-Penson was still a coach for South Carolina when she was told she had breast cancer in 2013. She worked with the famous Dawn Staley and helped South Carolina win the national title in 2017.
The State says that McCray-Penson’s cousin, Robert Penson, confirmed that she died during the night because of breast cancer problems.
McCray-Penson played in the American Basketball League and the Women’s National Basketball Association for a long time. She started her journey at the University of Tennessee before joining the ABL.
After that, she started coaching, first as an assistant at Western Kentucky and South Carolina, where she won a national title.
McCray-Penson was the head coach of Old Dominion for three years. In 2020, the team had a 20-6 record, which was the best of the three years.
Nikki McCray-Penson was Ole Miss’s head coach for one year, from 2020 to 2021, before she quit to focus on her health. She went back to Rutgers as an assistant coach the year before last but left for the same reason.
When we found out that Nikki McCray-Penson had died, it broke our hearts. Nikki was a much-loved part of the WNBA family and was named a WNBA All-Star three times in her eight seasons in the league.
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Nikki McCray-Penson’s Influence
During her time in college basketball, the ABL, and the WNBA, Nikki McCray-Penson was known as one of the best guards in women’s basketball. Before she went pro, she was named Southeastern Player of the Year and Kodak All-America twice at Tennessee.
McCray-Penson was the MVP of the ABL in 1996-1997. This was her first step in her career before she joined the WNBA, which had just started up. From 1999 to 2001, McCray was on three straight WNBA All-Star teams.
The tweet below from South Carolina Women’s Basketball remembers Nikki McCray:
Our program, our sport and most importantly her family lost an amazing woman – mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, coach, mentor – today.
Nikki McCray-Penson was part of our foundation and made us the program we are, one personal relationship at a time 💔 pic.twitter.com/jSRQY9Vnmx
— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) July 7, 2023
We lost an amazing mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, coach, and mentor today. Our school, our sport, and, most of all, her family.
The US has won seven gold medals in a row in women’s basketball at the Olympics. As a member of the Olympic team in 1996 and 2000, Nikki McCray-Penson was one of the first people on the team to win.
McCray-Penson was admitted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, which solidified her place in the sport.
A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, who was one of the Gamecocks’ best players in 2017 when they were trying to win the national title, tweeted as soon as the news came out:
“Such a fighter and a warrior with the sweetest gentle soul! Coach McCray, you’ve helped me in many, many ways and you were a true gift from God! Truly will be missed! No more suffering, no more pain! God got a good one.”
Heart hurts like crazy over this one! 💔 such a fighter and a warrior with the sweetest gentle soul! Coach McCray you’ve helped me in many many ways and you were a true gift from God! Truly will be missed! No more suffering no more pain! God got a good one 🤍 #oranges pic.twitter.com/zRCu4zXXdv
— A’ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) July 7, 2023
Bill Clinton chose Nikki McCray-Penson to be on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in 2000, even though she was not a basketball player.
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