The University of California, Riverside, today, March 30, 2020, announced that Nicole Powell, head coach at Grand Canyon University, has been named head women’s basketball coach for the Highlanders. Powell, a WNBA All-Star and Championship winning player, three-time All-American and two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year, and stellar recruiter, joins the Highlanders following UCR’s nationwide search for its next head coach.
“We are excited to welcome Nicole Powell to our Highlander Athletics family,” said Tamica Smith Jones, UC Riverside’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Coach Powell’s experience as a student-athlete at Stanford, as a player in the WNBA, as an assistant coach at Oregon, and most recently as the head coach at Grand Canyon University, speaks volumes. Her ability to lead by example, coach, mentor and build our student-athletes will be extremely important to us as we take the next step with our Women’s Basketball program. Coach Powell brings a winning attitude and approach that we fully expect will elevate our program to the top of the Big West Conference.”
“Coach Powell brings a truly impressive track record – as an All-American student athlete, WNBA champion, and coach at the highest levels – to our women’s basketball program,” said UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox. “We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber leading our program to new levels of success.”
As an assistant coach for the University of Oregon, Powell helped the Ducks secure its highest ranked (No. 3) recruiting class in school history, which included 2020 NCAA Women’s Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu. In her final year at Oregon, she helped the Ducks advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament before falling to defending champion Connecticut. In addition to playing in the WNBA, Powell played professionally in Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, and Turkey, where she won two championships.
"I could not be more excited for Nicole and her next chapter at UC Riverside,” said Kelly Graves, head women’s basketball coach at Oregon. “Nicole is one of the brightest young coaching stars in our business and understands first-hand what it means to serve and coach student-athletes at a high academic institution such as UCR. I have no doubt that she will have UCR competing for conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in the very near future. Nicole has a charismatic, infectious personality and a tireless work ethic that will draw both high-level recruits and community support to her program. Nicole is the whole package in terms of her knowledge of the game and her ability to teach it to young people. She coaches with integrity and treats her student-athletes with respect. With Nicole at the helm, the future is bright for UCR basketball."
“It is an honor to be named the next head coach for UC Riverside’s Women’s Basketball program,” Powell said. “It is a privilege to be part of the UC Riverside community and be a part of one of the fastest rising universities in the country. I am looking forward to getting started and working hard to help develop our student-athletes into the best players and people they can be while we compete for championships in the Big West Conference.”
At Stanford, Powell was a three-time finalist for the James Naismith Player of the Year Award, scored more than 2,000 points, and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds. Powell guided the Cardinal to the Elite Eight as a senior in the 2003-04 season and was named MVP of the NCAA Midwest Regional. She averaged 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and posted six triple-doubles that season.
Powell led GCU to a breakthrough in her third season, as the Lopes had an eight-game improvement and finished second in the WAC.
Powell, a Phoenix, Arizona native, was a Parade Magazine First-Team All-American (2000) and named the Arizona Player of the Century by The Arizona Republic during her prep career at Mountain Pointe High School. During her senior season, she averaged 21.1 points and 15.5 rebounds, leading the Pride to a 30-2 record and a state runner-up finish. She was named Arizona Player of the Year twice, ranks second in Class 5A history with 2,478 career points and holds the state record for any class with 1,820 career rebounds.