In 2012, as an all-conference guard, Nakeia Guiden helped lead Central Arkansas to their first-ever Southland Conference championship. In 2016 she won another, this time as a graduate assistant, as the Sugar Bears claimed their first-ever Southland Conference tournament championship and made the first of back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Now, she’s back for another one.
The Sugar Bear alum who played an instrumental role in the program’s turnaround in its Division I infancy – going from 7 wins the year prior to her arrival in 2008 to 66 over her final three from 2009-12 – returns to her alma mater as an assistant coach, joining head coach Sandra Rushing’s staff.
“I’m so excited to have Coach G rejoin our staff,” Rushing said. “Her love and passion for UCA and the Sugar Bears program, along with her familiarity, will make for an easy transition. I have seen firsthand her knowledge and understanding of working with student-athletes and administrators. She is a highly-motivated person who is very passionate about the game, and she exhibits a tremendous caring spirit and will be a great role model for our players.”
After spending the last three seasons as a head coach in the Arkansas high school ranks at Osceola and Wynne, Guiden – a Twin Groves native and Guy-Perkins High School product – comes back home to Faulkner County for her first full-time collegiate coaching position.
During her four years in a Sugar Bear uniform, Guiden scored over 1,000 points – one of just eight players to do so in the program’s Division I history – and ranks in the program’s D-I era Top 5 in steals (2nd); free throws (2nd); assists (4th); and blocks (5th), and is one of just 13 players in program history to make at least 100 starts.
“I am extremely excited to be back where it all started for me,” Guiden said. “Especially with it being back close to my hometown. I’m closer to family and friends, and Coach Rushing is a familiar face to me. She doesn’t know it, but she’s been one of my mentors since I was her graduate assistant. I’ve learned a lot from her then and I know I will learn a lot more. I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to be back coaching with her. I am looking forward to teaching and coaching these young ladies to the best of their abilities while winning some championships. I’ve also loved the family atmosphere that the UCA community has had and I’m looking forward to that again.”
As a four-time all-state performer at Guy-Perkins, Guiden studied under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach John Hutchcraft and took her team to three state championship games. She then enjoyed success at the high school level as a coach, guiding Osceola to a 3-3A district tournament championship and the quarterfinals of the 3A state tournament.
Guiden fills an opening created when former associate head coach Greg Long, who had spent four seasons in Conway, accepted his first collegiate head coaching job at the University of Arkansas at Monticello last month.
“This staff is great and fun to be around already,” she said. “It felt like we already knew each other before we even met. I’m excited to work with them, and I’m more excited about the players we have. They are young, energetic, athletic, have big personalities, and I love it! I believe our program has a bright future ahead with these young ladies. This program has a lot of potential and we are preparing every day to win another championship.”
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