Accomplished basketball player Nikki McCray-Penson passes away suddenly at the age of 51


Nikki McCray-Penson, a former basketball star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, has passed away at the age of 51. The cause of death for the accomplished athlete is currently unknown.

Dr. Mark Keenum, the President of Mississippi State University, expressed condolences upon hearing the news. It is known that Nikki McCray-Penson was a former head coach of the women’s basketball team at the university.

“I admired Nikki’s courage and her dedication to her players and this university as she faced significant health challenges during her tenure as our women’s basketball coach,” said Keenum.

“While at Mississippi State, Coach McCray-Penson did her best to elevate this university and the state of Mississippi. My wife, Rhonda, and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we extend our prayers to her family and friends,” he continued.

McCray-Penson, a loving wife and mother, was one of the remarkable women’s basketball players in the history of the sport.

Prior to becoming the head coach at Mississippi State in 2020, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, following her professional career where she won two Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000, played nine seasons in the WNBA with three All-Star appearances, won the 1997 ABL Championship, and was named the ABL MVP.

Hailing from Collierville, Tenn., McCray-Penson shined at the University of Tennessee under the guidance of legendary coach Pat Summit.

She earned the SEC Player of the Year award twice (1994 & 1995) and was selected as a Kodak All-American twice. McCray-Penson also helped Pat Summit’s Lady Vols team win two SEC Tournament Championships and the NCAA National Title in 1992.

“With heavy hearts, we mourn the loss of Nikki McCray-Penson,” said head coach Sam Purcell.

“She was an extraordinary basketball coach and a true leader for women, but more importantly, she was a loving mother and wife. Nikki and her family will remain in our hearts and prayers.”

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