LEXINGTON, Ky. Former Connecticut and Women’s Basketball National League standout, Tamika Williams, has been named an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Wednesday.
Williams, 34, comes to the Commonwealth after success at every level in the game of basketball and more than eight years of coaching experience. Williams’ hire rounds out the UK Hoops coaching staff as she joins new assistants Adeniyi Amadou and Christian Stefanopoulos.
“I have been a long-time admirer of Tamika Williams and her contributions to the game of basketball,” Mitchell said. “To have the opportunity to work with her on a daily basis is extremely exciting for everyone associated with our program. Her ability to impact our players in a positive way is something that I value greatly. Tamika has experienced success as a player, coach, broadcaster and in the business world. Her knowledge of the game coupled with the wisdom she can provide our players will be an invaluable asset to the Kentucky program. Tamika is a tremendous role model for our players and I couldn’t be happier to welcome her as the newest member of the Big Blue Nation.”
Williams, the sixth overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, played seven seasons in the professional ranks before retiring in 2008. She played six seasons for the Minnesota Lynx, appearing in 185 games with 139 starts. Some of her highlights with the Lynx included leading the team in rebounds per game, breaking the WNBA single-season record for field-goal percentage, scoring 1,000 career points and grabbing 1,000 rebounds. In 2008, she was traded to the Connecticut Sun where she played one season. Overall, she owned career averages of 6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in the WNBA, while shooting 55.9 percent from the field.
During the WNBA offseason, Williams began coaching at The Ohio State University in 2002 as a graduate assistant under head coach Jim Foster before being promoted to assistant coach in 2003. She spent five seasons on the sidelines with the Buckeyes before taking the same position at the University of Kansas from 2008-11.
In 2011, Williams moved to Texas and began working in the private sector. She owned and managed a Nationwide Insurance agency while serving as a sports analyst for ESPN during the 2011-12 women’s basketball season. She also served as an ambassador for Women & Girls Against HIV/AIDS, a U.S. State Department Sports Ambassador and traveled internationally with NBA Global, promoting the game of basketball.
"I'm elated and humbled that Coach Mitchell has given me an opportunity to be a part of such a tremendous program at University of Kentucky,” Williams said. “I have a chance to work with a phenomenal staff, cultivate the minds of young women for success on and off the court, and help promote his winning attitude in the community. I want to thank the University of Kentucky, Coach Mitchell, and every young woman on his team for accepting me into the Wildcat family. It’s truly been a blessing.”
The Dayton, Ohio native was the No. 1-ranked player in the nation by Blue Star Index coming out of high school. While at Chaminade-Julien High School, she scored 2,015 points and went on to earn a plethora of honors, including High School Player of the Year by Street and Smith, Naismith, USA Today and Parade Magazine, Ohio Player of the Year in 1997 and 1998, and the Ohio Miss Basketball as a senior. She also earned WBCA All-America honors and was the WBCA high school player of the year.
After being heavily recruited by almost every major college women’s basketball program in the country, she chose to play for Geno Auriemma at Connecticut from 1998-2002. She was one of four players (along with Asjha Jones, Swin Cash and Sue Bird) to be called by Sports Illustrated the "best recruiting class of 1998".
In college, Williams didn’t miss a beat. As a freshman she earned The Sporting News National Freshman of the Year, 1999 Big East Rookie of the Year, All-Big East Rookie Team and ECAC Rookie of the Year honors and ranked third in the NCAA with a .658% (173-for-263) field-goal percentage. During her sophomore season she was named Most Outstanding Performer of the 2000 Big East Tournament while helping the Huskies win the 2000 National Championship. In her junior year she became the 19th player in UConn history to score 1,000 points, and her senior season was capped off by another NCAA title with an undefeated 35-0 record. She received AP All-America Honorable Mention honors and was a Naismith Player of the Year candidate in the 2001-02 season.
She completed her collegiate career with averages of 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. She finished as UConn's all-time leader in field goal percentage at .703 percent (560-for-797), which is also an NCAA Division I record. She holds the Huskies' top four single-season marks for field goal percentage, ranked 14th on UConn's all-time scoring list with 1,402 points and finished 10th all-time in rebounding (763).
Williams not only excelled on the court but also in the classroom. She was a member of the dean’s list and served as the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee while earning a degree in interpersonal communications.