Tasha Pointer has been named the head UIC women’s basketball coach, Director of Athletics Garrett Klassy announced Tuesday, April 3. Pointer, whose hire is pending Board of Trustees approval, brings a wealth of experience at major programs, as well as Chicago roots, to the Flames program.
“I am very excited about the future of UIC women’s basketball under Coach Pointer,” Klassy said. “Her background of growing up in Chicago, to playing at Rutgers at the highest level, to coaching at many very successful locations make her the right fit for UIC. Her ability to coach, recruit, and relate to her players really stood out during the interview process. I’m confident that Tasha will be the coach that will move this program forward and lead us to unprecedented heights.”
Pointer spent the 2017-18 season as an assistant coach nearby at Northwestern, following a two-year stint at St. John’s. She helped lead the Red Storm to the Big East tournament championship and an NCAA tournament berth in 2016. Prior to her time in Queens, Pointer was on the legendary C. Vivian Stringer’s staff at Rutgers for eight years. In that time, she was part of six NCAA tournament teams, including an Elite Eight squad and a Sweet Sixteen group.
“It is an honor and humbling experience to lead the University of Illinois at Chicago’s women’s basketball program,” said Pointer. “I grew up locally on Chicago’s West Side, refining my basketball skills against some of the greatest individuals to play the game. I also developed as a student with the Chicago Public Schools system primarily due to a supportive network of teachers and administrators who challenged me daily to be purposeful with life. Their collective work grants me the opportunity to return to this great city and impact more than I ever imagined.
“I am appreciative of the guidance Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer and the influence she has had on my life,” said Pointer. “I thank UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, Director of Athletics Garrett Klassy and Senior Women’s Athletics Director Tonya McGowan for affording me this platform to inspire.
“I am enthused to step into the position of head coach of the UIC women’s basketball team,” added Pointer. “I am also grateful for my time at Northwestern University under the direction of head coach Joe McKeown and the empowering leadership of Vice President for Athletics & Recreation, Dr. James Phillips. Northwestern is an amazing place. Part of my heart, as well as my family’s heart will always remain at NU.”
Pointer has mentored four conference Defensive Players of the Year, two Rookies of the Year, 18 all-conference selections, and over a dozen WNBA draft picks. She was instrumental in recruiting some of the nation’s top high school players, resulting in three recruiting classes that ranked third in the country and an additional top-10 group.
A Parade First Team All-American and the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year out of Whitney Young High School in Chicago, Pointer starred at Rutgers. She led the Scarlet Knights to their first Final Four appearance in 2000 and remains the program’s all-time leader in assists, and second on the steals list. During her senior season, she led the NCAA in assists on her way to becoming an honorable mention All-American and a finalist for both the Naismith Player of the Year and Nancy Lieberman Awards. Pointer scored 1,456 points in her decorated career and accumulated four triple-doubles. She was named to the Big East 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame Team, and is enshrined in the Rutgers Hall of Fame.
Before returning to her alma mater, Pointer coached for two seasons at Columbia and one at Xavier, where the Musketeers won the Atlantic 10 championship.
During Pointer’s lone season at Northwestern, the coaching staff helped lead the squad to a second round appearance in the Big Ten tournament after an opening round win over Wisconsin. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah averaged a double-double, set the school’s single-season rebounding record, and earned All-Big Ten Second Team distinction. Lyndsey Pulliam was an All-Freshman Team honoree after leading all Big Ten freshmen with 14.6 points per game.
At St. John’s, Pointer’s commitment to defense was evident. The Red Storm ranked in the top three in the Big East in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, and rebounding defense. Two different players were named Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Pointer’s two seasons in Queens (Aliyyah Handford and Aaliyah Lewis). Three Red Storm players earned First Team All-Conference status. St. John’s cruised to the 2015 Big East tournament championship, allowing just 51.7 points per game in their three victories.
Pointer and the Rutgers staff experienced tremendous success in the first part of her tenure there, and then after a season of adversity, showed resilience as they rebuilt the program back into an NCAA force.
The Scarlet Knights played in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in each of Pointer’s first two seasons on the bench. They advanced to the Elite Eight in 2008 before losing to UConn, whom they had beaten during the regular season to give the Huskies their only loss of the season. The following year, Rutgers made the Sweet Sixteen after their second straight year of at least 20 victories.
NCAA appearances continued to reward the Scarlet Knights over the next three seasons, which saw Rutgers win 30 Big East games overall. They made the second round of the big dance in 2011, where they lost to eventual national champion Texas A&M. Following the 2012 season, Khadija Rushdan was named a first team All-Big East member. She became the second player in program history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 400 assists. She made the Naismith Award Midseason list after becoming only the second player in program history – after Pointer herself – to record a triple double.
The 2012-13 season was a rebuilding one on the Banks, as freshmen accounted for 65 percent of the playing time and 55 percent of the team’s scoring. Kahleah Copper was an All-Freshman team honoree. The following year, Pointer helped lead the team to a 28-9 record, the program’s most wins since its Elite Eight appearance in 2005, and one shy of the school record for wins in a season. Copper was the WNIT MVP after the Scarlet Knights defeated UTEP for the WNIT championship.
Pointer helped engineer a return to the NCAA tournament in 2015, and in doing so elicited a breakout season from Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Syessence Davis. Davis ranked fourth in the nation in steals that year, and eclipsed Pointer’s own school record for career steals. She was a finalist for the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year award.
In Pointer’s one season at Xavier, she worked with freshman forward Amber Harris, who became the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in addition to being named to the First Team, All-Rookie Team, and All-Defensive Team. The Musketeers won 26 games, second most in school history to that point, were the A-10 tournament champions, and appeared in the NCAA tournament.
Pointer’s reputation as a tenacious recruiter is well earned. She brought the nation’s top prep point guard to Rutgers in 2013. In the spring of 2011, Pointer helped secure the commitment of the 11th ranked high school player in the country, who became one of two Parade All-Americans in the incoming class. That was the first of back-to-back classes ranked #3 in the country by ESPN. She secured the commitment of a top-10 junior college prospect and an NJCAA All-American to St. John’s. Overall, seven of Pointer’s recruits became WNBA draft picks.
A four-year starter at Rutgers, Pointer became one of the top point guards in program history. She was the 1998 Big East Rookie of the Year and a two-time First Team selection. Pointer led her class to 10 wins in the NCAA tournament, earning two NCAA All-Tournament Team selections. She led the Big East in assists twice. The WBCA and the Associate Press both placed her on their honorable mention All-America teams twice. She was voted the team’s MVP or co-MVP all four years in Piscataway.
Pointer left Rutgers as the school’s all time – men’s and women’s – leader in assists and steals. She still holds the NCAA tournament record for assists in a game, with 18 against Stephen F. Austin in 2001. She led the Scarlet Knights to unprecedented success in the NCAA tournament, where they won multiple games in three seasons. Twice they were eliminated by the eventual national champion, and once by the eventual runner-up. Pointer led the team to wins over No. 1 Tennessee and No. 2 UConn in 1998, helping Rutgers become the first unranked team to defeat both a No. 1 and a No. 2 team. The win over UConn snapped the Huskies’ Big East record 47-game conference winning streak. Another upset followed in 2001, when Pointer and the Scarlet Knights handed top-ranked Notre Dame their first loss of the season in front of a record crowd at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. She graduated as the eighth all-time leading scorer and still has the top two single season assist totals in program history.
Pointer became a high school legend during her playing days at Whitney Young on the Near West Side. She averaged 25.4 points per game her senior year and led the Dolphins to the Public League championship in 1995. She was rated the No. 10 player in the country as a senior by Blue Star Report and was a first team Nike/WBCA All-American, in addition to earning Parade All-American status. She was named to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye All-Chicago Women’s Legends Team alongside such luminaries as Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings.
Pointer earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass media from Rutgers in 2001, and received a master’s degree in education administration and supervision from the school in 2003.
She is married to Kwabena Yamoah and they are the proud parents of daughters, Nariah and Anaiah.
Photo Courtesy UIC AthleticsHorizon League Tasha Pointer UIC