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Nikki McCray-Penson dies

The Rutgers women’s basketball assistant coach and one of the Mystics’ first star players died unexpectedly yesterday.

Nikki McCray #15
Nikki McCray was one of the Mystics’ first star players.

On Friday, Rutgers University announced that assistant coach Nikki McCray-Penson died. No cause of death was announced. She was 51 years old. While McCray-Penson has coached for over a decade, she is best known as an ABL and WNBA player from 1996-2006, including for the Washington Mystics from 1998-2001.

While on the Mystics, McCray-Penson was on three WNBA All-Star teams from 1999-2001 and was also a member of the USA Basketball women’s national team that won the gold medal in the 2000 Olympics; she also was part of the 1996 Olympic team. In 125 appearances for Washington, McCray-Penson averaged 15.4 points and 2.4 assists per game.

In addition to her time on the Mystics, McCray-Penson played for the Indiana Fever (2001-03) Phoenix Mercury (2004), San Antonio Silver Stars (2005) and Chicago Sky (2006) in the WNBA as well as the Columbus Quest (1996) of the ABL.

After her playing career, McCray-Penson was an assistant coach for Western Kentucky (2006-08) and South Carolina (2008-17) before getting her first head coaching opportunity at Old Dominion (2017-20). In the 2019-20 season, the Lady Monarchs were 24-6 before the coronavirus pandemic cut the season short. She then became the head coach at Mississippi State for the 2020-21 season and resigned due to health reasons. She took the Rutgers assistant coaching vacancy for the 2022-23 season.