John Dunlap and the Warner Athletic Department has announced the hiring of Nikki Jessee as the Head Coach of Women’s Basketball.
Nikki Jessee has been a success everywhere she has been and is most notably known for rebuilding college programs and turning them into winners.
Before retiring from college coaching to be a mother in 2014, Jessee led Saint Leo to its best season in school history in 2013-2014, guiding the Lions to a 20-10 record – and their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Saint Leo’s 20 victories is a record for wins in a single season, and its nine conference wins were also the most league wins ever. In addition, Saint Leo’s 66.7 percent winning percentage in 2013-14 is the highest in program history.
After her second year at the helm of the program, Jessee guided the Lions to the best team record since the 1998-98 season. In Sunshine State Conference play the Lions also broke the previous record for conference wins in a season. Two of the Lions’ seven conference wins came against Top 25 teams with Saint Leo topping eventual NCAA South Region champion No. 17 Nova Southeastern and No. 15 Tampa. It was Saint Leo’s first win at Tampa since 2003.
A No. 7 seed in the Sunshine State Conference tournament, Saint Leo beat No. 2 Lynn in the opening round. It was the first time in SSC tournament history that a No. 7 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed. Following the win against Lynn the Lions beat Tampa for the second time that year to advance to the SSC Tournament Championship for the first time in program history.
Jessee has developed a lengthy and successful resume with over 20 years of coaching. At Lynn University she helped turn the Fighting Knights’ squad into an instant competitor in the Sunshine State Conference, guiding them to a program-best 14-2 start while also earning national recognition in the WBCA Top-25 poll and NCAA South Region rankings, both program firsts. Her squad also posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 13 seasons, while posting a program-record for points in a season.
Prior to her time with the Fighting Knights, Jessee was tabbed as the head coach of Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee. At Martin, she guided the team to the best start in program history at 13-2, collected the team’s first conference tournament win, all while compiling the most wins in school history. She guided the team to their highest national ranking in program history.
Jessee has also manned successful sidelines as an assistant over the course of her career, her last coming at the University of Tampa where she served as the assistant under head coach and husband, Tom Jessee. In 2009-10, she aided the Spartans to a regular season Sunshine State Conference Championship. The team spent the entire season ranked in the top-25, tying the school record for wins in a year at 26.
In addition, prior to her arrival at Martin Methodist College, Jessee coached at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn., where she was the recruiting coordinator from 2003-04. She spent two years, 2000-02, at Campbell University, where she helped guide the Lady Camels to an Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship and runner-up finish at the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
A Florida native, she began her coaching career in Lakeland, Fla., where she helped guide George Jenkins High School to the State Finals in the 1999-2000 season. After spending time as an assistant at Campbell University, she earned the head spot at Lyman High School in Orlando, Fla.
A local talent, Jessee competed as a high school All-American at Lakeland High School before taking her talents to the University of Florida in one of the top recruiting classes in the country as she was one of the top-50 players in the country. She was a three-time player of the year, while earning Miss Florida Runner-Up. She is Lakeland High School’s all-time leading scorer, sinking 50 points in a single game. After two years in the blue and orange, Jessee dressed for Rollins College for the final three years of her career. At Rollins, Jessee was a three-time all-conference selection, earning team MVP honors. A Sunshine State Conference Tournament MVP, Jessee was voted Female Athlete of the Year, Central Florida Female Athlete of the Year, and holds a top-10 spot in multiple Rollins’ women’s basketball categories, including scoring, three-point baskets made, three-point field goal percentage, free throws made, free throw percentage, and blocks. Jessee will be inducted into the Rollins College Hall of Fame on March 26.
Topping-off her playing career, Jessee signed a professional contract with the Thames Valley Tigers of Bracknell, England where she led the club in scoring and rebounding.
She graduated from Rollins College in 1999 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and received her Master’s from Campbell University in 2001 with a degree in Education. She is the youngest of six children, and has a twin sister.
The former Nikki Sullivan, her daughter Rudi, and her husband Tom reside in Dover, FL.NAIA The Sun Conference Warner