July 28, 2022 

Tasha Pointer and Nikki McCray-Penson join Rutgers as assistant coaches

Coquese Washington continues building out her new Rutgers staff with the additions of Rutgers alum Pointer and former teammate McCray-Penson

Coquese Washington is filling out her new staff at Rutgers with the additions of Tasha Pointer and Nikki McCray-Penson as assistant coaches.

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Pointer played for Rutgers under former head coach C. Vivian Stringer from 1997-2001, including as the starting point guard on the Final Four team in 2000. Pointer recorded the first triple-double in Rutgers history and won Big East Freshman of the Year in 1998.

“The most important thing that all of us former Scarlet Knights wanted to make sure of was that with the new hire, we would still have a connection and a tie to Rutgers University women’s basketball,” Pointer said. “I was more than honored to be considered to be a part of (Washington’s) first staff.”

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This is Pointer’s second stint as a Rutgers assistant, serving in the role previously from 2007-2015. She comes to Rutgers after serving as the head coach of the University of Illinois Chicago for three seasons.

McCray-Penson joins Rutgers after a long WNBA career and head coaching stints at Old Dominion and Mississippi State. She left the latter school in 2021 due to health reasons. After taking a year off, McCray-Penson decided to return to coaching on Washington’s staff. McCray-Penson played with Washington on the Indiana Fever in 2002 and 2003.

“I was at home really focusing on me, and I said, ‘if I get back into coaching, it has to be with the right people at the right institution,’” McCray-Penson said. “I wanted to be very picky and selective about that. I want to be in the foxhole with (Washington) because of her. I believe in her vision of working for an amazing academic institution, the history and the tradition that’s here, the great coaches and players who have come through this program.”

Neither coach said they had a defined position group they were hired to work with.

McCray-Penson served as assistant recruiting coordinator at South Carolina prior to becoming a head coach. She played an instrumental role in the creation of the Gamecocks’ 2017 national championship team.

“Right now we’re very committed to our kids that are on our roster,” McCray-Penson said. “The portal is big. Everything is moving pretty quickly as we continue to navigate getting these recruits in with our staff and with our coaches.”

Pointer is known for her defensive acumen. She coached four Big East Defensive Players of the Year at Rutgers and top-three defenses in both years at St. John’s.

The two coaches will work alongside John Hampton, who joins the program from St. Joseph’s. Hampton worked primarily with post players while at St. Joseph’s, but also mentored backcourt players and led junior college recruiting.

Pointer said Washington’s ability to build positive relationships with her players drew her to the program. Rutgers returns just three players from last season. This gives Washington and her staff an opportunity to create a new Rutgers culture and program.

“Oftentimes when building something new, if you want to build it properly, you have to start from ground zero,” Pointer said. “For us, it’s making sure that we love all of our kids, and meet them where they are. We are so excited to see how we can continue to grow them individually in terms of their game.”

Written by Gabriela Carroll

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