With her 10th year in the WNBA coming to a close on Saturday, Nicole Powell takes on a new chapter in her extensive and long successful basketball career.
The Mountain Pointe grad and member of the Pride’s initial Hall of Fame class in 2011 will help coach the Gonzaga women’s basketball team starting this season.
She watched as Tina Thompson was honored by the Seattle Storm on Saturday as she played her final WNBA after being the league's first No. 1 draft pick in 1997.
"I started to reflect on (her own career) a little bit," Powell said. "It puts things in perspective and reaching 10 years is a neat accomplishment. I feel fortunate my body has held up and the support I have received from family and friends.
"A lot of things can happen your career and I've been very fortunate."
Powell, who plays for the Tulsa Shock, had a chance to play in Korea this offseason but chose to join the Zags' coaching staff instead.
“I am thrilled to begin my coaching career at Gonzaga University and honored that coach (Kelly) Graves and his staff have given me this wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Zag family,” Powell said. “I am really looking forward to working with the staff and players each day. I love the high energy, positive atmosphere that coach Graves has cultivated and am excited to get in the gym and work with the team.”
Graves, Gonzaga University women’s basketball head coach, announced the hiring of the Tulsa Shock forward and former Stanford University standout recently as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs. Powell replaces Julie Shaw, who is now the head women’s basketball coach at the University of La Verne.
“I am excited to have Nicole join the staff,” said Graves. “She is the whole package; has had some phenomenal experiences, is a tremendous player, has a Stanford pedigree — playing for a great program, and most importantly she has a great personality. She has a deep understanding of the game and the ability to communicate with today’s player. I think she is going to fit well with our team, coaching staff and our university.”
Powell closed out her 10th year in the WNBA on Saturday and first with the Tulsa Shock. She was the third overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft; selected by the Charlotte Sting.
In her impressive 10-year professional career, Powell has won a WNBA Championship with the Sacramento Monarchs (2005), named the WNBA Most Improved Player (2005) and named a WNBA All-Star (2009). The forward also led the WNBA in three-point field goals made with 66 in 2005 and was first in free throw percentage at 96.4 percent during the 2007 campaign and during the 2009 season at 97.9 percent.
She has career averages of 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game. She is also shooting a career 38.2 percent from the field and 88.4 percent from the charity stripe.
As a member of the Tulsa Shock this season, Powell averaged 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds over 32 games and is shooting 40.6 percent from the floor.
Powell ended her career at Stanford as one of only two three-time Kodak All-American’s in its women’s basketball history and was a finalist for the James Naismith Player of the Year for three-consecutive years (2002-04). She graduated as the program’s all-time leader in career rebounds (1,143) and third all-time leading scorer (2,062). Powell guided the Cardinal to the Elite Eight as a senior in 2003-04 and was named the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region.
The Sierra Vista, Ariz., native began her career with Stanford as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2000 after shattering just about all of Mountain Pointe’s school records and was named the Conference Player of the Year in both 2002 and 2004.
Powell helped Stanford accumulate a 105-26 record over her four years, as she averaged 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. She is also the only player in Pac-12 history to have recorded more than one career triple-double, tallying six in her career.
Powell graduated from Stanford in 2005 with a degree in urban studies.
“My experiences as both a collegiate and professional athlete have been great preparation for coaching,” stated Powell. “I understand the demands our student-athletes face and how important it is to help them find the right balance to excel in their sport and in school while experiencing all that college life has to offer.”
The idea of being able to help an incoming freshman find their way or possibly take a struggling sophomore to the next level is her way of returning the favor.
"I certainly look forward to the coaching, helping with the Xs and Os part of the game and learning as much as I can from the rest of the staff," she said. "The biggest factor for me was getting a chance to give back to the game that has been so good to me.
"I had great people in my career that showed me how to work at becoming a pro and become a women. It would have transferred to whatever my career would have been and now I will use the same approach in becoming the best coach I can.
"That guidance helped me balance everything you have to go through and grow as a person.
"It is the biggest reason I am taking this step."
Gonzaga sports information contributed to this story.
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