After a stellar year in 2014-15 that saw the Bears win 25 games, a Mid-South Conference Tournament title, and make a second-round appearance in the NAIA Tournament, Jeff Nickel will enter his third season as the head coach of the Shawnee State University in the 2015-16 campaign.
Nickel took over the head coaching position in the 2013-14 season and has continued the tradition of excellence that was established by NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Robin Hagen-Smith. Hagen-Smith coached the Bears for 30 seasons and amassed 638 NAIA victories, which led all active coaches at the time of her retirement following the 2012-13 season. Nickel served as an assistant for four seasons under Hagen-Smith.
The 2014-15 season marked a banner year for the SSU banner program as Nickel guided the Bears to wins in their first seven contests on the year and never looked back from that point forward as the third-year headman guided the Bears to five straight wins before falling to the eventual NAIA Division I National Champions in Oklahoma City University during the NAIA Second Round to close the season.
In that stretch of five straight wins came one of the greatest runs in program history, as the Bears grabbed three MSC Tournament victories, including two in overtime and all three by 10 points or less, to win the conference tournament championship for the first time in school history by defeating the MSC Regular Season Champions and eventual NAIA Division I Runner-Ups, Campbellsville, by a 74-67 tally in overtime.
As a result of the accolades that Shawnee State earned as a team, many of Nickel's players won awards under the direction of the Bluegrass native. Ali Zieverink used a breakout year (19.4 points, 5.7 rebounds) to win MSC Player of the Year honors, while Tabby McKinney joined Zieverink on the first team. Shavon Robinson added Second-Team All-MSC honors. Additionally, Zieverink and McKinney earned NAIA All-American honors, with Zieverink obtaining NAIA Second-Team recognition and McKinney making the NAIA Honorable Mention list.
With Nickel taking the lead during the 2013-14 season, the Bears advanced to their 19th NAIA Tournament in the past 21 seasons. In his NAIA debut, Nickel led Shawnee State to a first round upset of No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist in overtime, guiding the Bears to the NAIA Second Round for the sixth straight season and 15th time overall in program history. To get into position for the NAIA Tournament, Shawnee State won nine straight games from the beginning of February through the MSC Opening Round victory against Lindsey Wilson. Compiling an overall record of 20-13, the Bears racked up four victories ranked in the NAIA top six last season.
Shawnee State was led by a trio of seniors from last year’s squad, headlined by First-Team All-American and MSC Player of the Year Alannah Sheets. In addition to Sheets leading the conference in scoring, Diane Abbady and Priscila Santos were also named First-Team All-MSC and Honorable Mention All-America. The 2013-14 season was the first time the Bears had three different players honored as first-team All-Conference picks in program history. Sheets became the 10th First-Team All-American in program history. The three players represented as All-American honorees was also the most in program history.
This coming season will be Nickel’s seventh overall at Shawnee State. In addition to four years as an assistant coach, he also served as interim head coach for six games during the 2012-13 season. He compiled a record of 5-1 during that time.
The Bears also experienced great success in Nickel’s four seasons as an assistant coach. In his first year as an assistant coach, SSU advanced to the NAIA Division II championship game in 2009-10. During the 2010-11 season, the Bears moved to the Mid-South Conference and NAIA Division I and went back to the Fab Four in that season. As an assistant, Nickel’s responsibilities included recruiting, scouting, walk through and Individual workouts.
During his career with the Bears, Nickel has coached 18 MOC or MSC All-Conference players while with Shawnee State, including six in his two seasons as the head coach of the program. Of those six, five were named First-Team All-MSC. This total includes the program's lone MSC Conference Player of the Year winners - Zieverink and Sheets.
In all, Nickel has coached 10 of the 28 players who have been named an NAIA All-American in school history, including five since taking over the head coaching post in the 2013-14 campaign.
Prior to Shawnee State, Nickel spent one season as head coach of his alma mater at Greenup County High School (Ky.). He went 17-10 in his only season and amassed the best regular season in 11 years at GCHS. He also spent two seasons as the head girls' basketball coach at Portsmouth High School. While at Portsmouth, he helped develop the Portsmouth Girls Youth Basketball League. Nickel has also spent four seasons as an assistant to KHSAA Ring of Honor Coach Randy Ward at Portsmouth Clay High School. Together they compiled a league championship, three sectional titles and two district finals appearances.
Coach Nickel began his basketball career at Greenup County High School under Coach Randy Ward. While at GCHS he was a member of three 63rd district championships, two 16th Region semifinal teams and one 16th Region runner-up team. He graduated from GCHS in 2000. The following year he started his coaching career at 18 years old at McKell Middle School in South Shore, Kentucky.
Nickel received his bachelor's degree from Shawnee State University in 2005 and holds a Grade 7-12 Integrated Social Studies Teaching license. In 2011, he received his master's degree in Athletic Administration/Coaching from Concordia University-Irvine, California. He resides in South Shore, Kentucky.
After a highly successful first season that saw the Bears take home their first-ever Mid-South Conference Championship, Erica Webb will enter her second season as an assistant coach for the Shawnee State women’s basketball team in the 2015-16 season.
In her first season as a member of the SSU women's basketball coaching staff, Webb played a vital part in the Bears' 25-10 season as Shawnee State started the year by winning their first seven games of the season and ended the season in dramatic fashion by winning two games in overtime during the conference tournament en route to the program's first-ever Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship.
While the Bears eventually fell in the second round of the NAIA Tournament to the eventual national champions in Oklahoma City University, Webb's contributions to the program allowed Shawnee State to put three players (Ali Zieverink, current SSU assistant Tabby McKinney, and Shavon Robinson) on the All-MSC squad, two players (Zieverink and McKinney) toward NAIA All-American honors and guide Zieverink to the Mid-South Conference's Player of the Year award, the second straight year that the program has had a player win the honor.
Prior to her time at Shawnee State, Webb spent the 2013-14 season as a member of the University of Pikeville coaching staff. She was tasked with recruiting, coordination of summer camps, planning of practices, scouting, film breakdown and strength and conditioning.
Before her time at UPIKE, Webb spent three years (2009-2011) as the League Sports Coordinator at the YMCA of Central Kentucky. From 2006-08, she was a full-time health and physical education teacher at Cumberland High School in Harlan, Ky. Webb spent 2007-08 as a coach for the varsity, junior varsity and freshman squads at Cawood High School in Harlan.
Webb graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Fitness and Programs Management in May 2004 from Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky. While there, she was a three-year letterwinner for the Lady Eagles. During her senior campaign, Webb averaged 13.8 points per game and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per contest.
Webb completed all classes for her Graduate and Master’s Degree in Health/PE K-12 at Union College. She earned a Master’s in Sport and Program Management from the University of Pikeville in 2014.
While at Shawnee State, Webb will be charged with recruiting and scouting, as well as assisting with day-to-day operations and player development.