COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC release) -South Carolina women's basketball assistant coach and former Lady Vol Nikki McCray announced Monday that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has begun treatment and will continue to coach through the season, as possible. McCray learned of the diagnosis in November, and doctors indicate that it is treatable.
"This will definitely be a challenge, but I am getting prepared to fight and win this battle," McCray said. "We are a close family here at South Carolina, and I will draw my strength from God, my family and friends, our team, our staff and the fans. I am thankful for everyone's continued to support."
"When Nikki called me with the unexpected news, my immediate reaction was to become the best supporter for her through this process," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "Family is important to us, and we all have embraced Nikki's diagnosis with that mindset and providing her with all the moral and physical support she needs. Our `Play 4 Kay' game will definitely have an even more personal meaning for us this year."
In her sixth season on the Gamecocks' sideline, McCray has helped the program to back-to-back 25-win seasons and a spot in the national polls throughout the 2013-14 campaign. Her work with the guards has helped four of them earn All-SEC honors in the last four seasons, including 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Ieasia Walker.
McCray enjoyed a professional playing career that included two Olympic gold medals and three WNBA All-Star selections in her nine seasons in the league. In her four seasons at Tennessee, she was a two-time All-American and earned SEC Player of the Year honors her junior and senior seasons as well. McCray was part of three SEC regular-season championships, two conference tournament titles and four NCAA Tournament appearances for the Lady Vols.
McCray and her husband, Thomas Penson, have a son, Thomas Nikson Penson, born Feb. 1, 2013.