April 11, 2011

Saint Leo University Selects Nikki Jessee Next Head Women's Basketball Coach

Sunshine State Conference Veteran Comes to Saint Leo

SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo University Director of Athletics, Francis X. Reidy, has announced the selection of Nikki Jessee as the next head women's basketball coach for the Lions. Previously, Jessee served as the assistant women's basketball coach at Sunshine State Conference perennial contender the University of Tampa. Jessee is the 11th coach in program history.

"While we had a great pool of candidates for this position, Coach Jessee has successfully rebuilt two programs in Martin Methodist and Lynn University. She has proven she can do what needs to be accomplished to be successful with our women's program," Reidy stated.

Familiar with Division II and the Sunshine State Conference, Jessee has developed a lengthy and successful resume over her 12 years of coaching. Her latest head coaching stint came with Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. While there, she helped turn a Fighting Knights' squad into an instant competitor in the Sunshine State Conference, guiding them to a program-best start while also earning national recognition in the WBCA Top-25 poll and NCAA South Region rankings, both team firsts.

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.

"I'm ecstatic to have been given the opportunity by Mr. Reidy to bring a winning tradition to the Saint Leo Women's Basketball program," Jessee said. "We will immediately get to work developing the players we now have, and adding some missing pieces to move this program in the right direction."

Jessee has also manned successful sidelines as an assistant over the course of her career, her latest 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.

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. Jessee was then named head coach at Lyman High in Orlando, Fla.

Jessee has amassed 70 wins during her five seasons as a head coach, and has developed an astute knowledge for the game since her days as a student-athlete. 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. After two years in the blue and orange, Jessee dressed for conference opponent Rollins College for the final three years of her career.

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.

Transitioning onto the sidelines, Jessee brings a well-rounded vision to the Lions' program as she looks to secure success in the community, the classroom, and the hardwood. About the current state of the program, Jessee added, "Saint Leo is a hidden gem with wonderful people surrounding it, and one which I hope to put on the map basketball wise."

She graduated from Rollins in 1999 with a Bachelors Degree in English and received her Master's from Campbell University in 2001 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is the youngest of five children, and has a twin sister.

Reidy concluded, "Nikki Jessee has been successful as a player, assistant coach and head coach in the Sunshine State Conference. For these reasons she was the best choice to lead our program going forward. We are excited to have Nicole, Tom (except for two nights a year), and daughter Rudi as the newest members of our Saint Leo family."

The former Nikki Sullivan, her daughter Rudi, and her husband Tom reside in Clearwater, Fla.