As first year VCU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Marlene Stollings familiarizes herself with a new school, a new team, and a new city, there will be one familiar face on the bench that should make her transition much smoother: Niki Dawkins.
For the past eight seasons, Dawkins served as a top assistant under renowned head coach, Wendy Larry, at Old Dominion University. Under Dawkins’ guidance, the Lady Monarchs were the most dominating force in the Colonial Athletic Association, posting an overall record of 158-67 during her tenure, as well as 105-21 in league play.
With four CAA Tournament titles, numerous league championships, and an appearance in the Sweet 16 in 2008 under her belt at ODU, Dawkins hopes to bring that same winning mentality with her to spark an up and coming VCU team that finished 18-10 (13-5) last season, including a season sweep of the Lady Monarchs. She has coached five WNBA players, 15 All- CAA honorees, five CAA All-Defensive team selections, eight All-Academic honorees, and has been one of the most effective recruiter’s during her coaching career, signing some of the most impressive top recruiting classes in the nation.
As the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Rams, she will be expected to continue her knack for finding premier talent and help mold a young team into a contender, as VCU moves into the competitive Atlantic-10 Conference. High character players, with the ability to run the floor and score will be some of the most important qualities Dawkins will look for in recruiting.
“Me and Coach [Stollings] love offensive players. We are going to be looking for gunners, and high-powered, versatile athletes. If you can put the ball in basket, you have a spot on the VCU Women’s Basketball team,” added Dawkins
Serving as Stollings coach and mentor at Ohio State University during her freshman and sophomore seasons, “Coach Nik” fills a similar role after being named the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the VCU women’s staff earlier this year. Dawkins will immediately provide exceptional leadership, an unbelievable amount of basketball experience, and a vast knowledge of player growth and development both on and off the court that should pay dividends for a young VCU squad this season. Remaining in touch throughout the years, Stollings and Dawkins share an unparalleled passion for the game and an inevitable drive to win.
With head coaching stints at Detroit Mercy and New Mexico State, as well as assistant coaching positions at the University of Michigan, Texas Tech, Ohio State, and ODU, Dawkins certainly knows what it takes to build a winning program, and will be very useful as a mentor, a leader, and strategist to help mold a relatively unknown VCU team.
“Her [Dawkins] insight will be invaluable. She has 20 years of experience and her knowledge of the game is incredible. The comfort level is definitely there and having a rapport with someone you’ve known so long will help aid the program to where we want it much faster,” said Head Coach Stollings.
Dawkins was one of the most feared and gifted women’s basketball player’s in Ohio history, and played at Ohio State University from 1985 to 1989, where she had an illustrious playing career. She received All-Big Ten First Team honors, was a member of the Big-Ten All Decade Team, the Ohio State All-Century Team, and was also inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Internationally, Dawkins was a member of two USA Select Teams (1988 & 1990), the World University Team (1989), and the USA Junior National Team (1987). Overall, she has four gold medals, three of which she was the recipient as a player and one as a coach, when she served as an assistant for the U.S. 20-and-Under team in 2002.
“Every coach knows they don’t know everything, and there’s always more to learn and improve on as a player and a coach. I aspire to help these girls grow and reach their goals. When I stop learning, it’s time to get out of the business,” Dawkins said.
As the season rapidly approaches, Dawkins will be a continued source of guidance for a VCU team that lost leading scorers, Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour. Her eye for spotting talent, adjusting to a new system and her familiarity with Head Coach Stollings will help make her impact felt immediately. The Rams begin their season on Nov. 12th at Elon.