Just Want To Play Basketball
Nikki McCray began playing basketball at age 11 after her grandmother persuaded Nikki's male cousins to
let her play ball with them. She enjoyed the special attention, but she also proved her worth on the court. Although she also participated in track in high school, it was her performance on the school's basketball team that earned her the number ten spot on the National Federation of State High School Associations' list of all-time high school scorers. She worked hard to improve both her defensive and offensive skills.
McCray's high school performance attracted the attention of coach Pat Summitt of the Lady Volunteers women's basketball team at the University of Tennessee, who recruited the young hot-shot. McCray attended the university from 1991 to 1995, eventually earning a degree in sports marketing and education.
It was with the Lady Vols that the 5'11" McCray began a long string of accolades. During her four years at Tennessee, she compiled a 122-11 record. In her junior year alone, she led the team in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game. Overall, she helped the team to win four consecutive SEC Championships and attend four NCAA Tournaments. McCray was named Best Defensive Player for Tennessee for the four years between 1992 and 1995, Lady Vols Scholar-Athlete for 1993, SEC Player of the Year for 1994 and 1995, collegiate All-American for those same years, MVP of the NCAA Mideast Regionals in 1995, and was a Coach's Award recipient. In addition, she was a nominee for the 1994 Honda-Broderick Award and a runner up for the Naismith Player of the Year for 1994 and 1995.
McCray signed a one-year contract with the American Basketball League in its 1996 inaugural season, joining the now-defunct Columbus Quest team for a reported salary of $150,000. During McCray's tenure, the team attended the 1997 ABL Championship, its first. She was named the ABL's Most Valuable Player for the 1996-97 season, and closed the season averaging 19.9 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 2.7 assists per game.