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Friday, June 14, 2024

Former WNBA Draftee hired for HBCU coaching job

Courtesy: UAPB Athletics

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Chris Robinson announced Thursday that Erica Leak has been named the new head women’s basketball coach. The 2005 WNBA Draftee will begin her era with the Golden Lions Women’s Basketball as the program’s 10th head coach

With Leak’s being drafted at the highest level of women’s basketball in the (WNBA) and several opportunities to coach on the collegiate level, Coach Leak felt that the timing was now. 

Prior to joining the Golden Lion Women’s Basketball team, Coach Leak led West Memphis High Blue Devils program to the state finals for the first time since 2003, earning the title of Arkansas High School Coach of the Year in 2023. She spent four years as the head coach of the 5A East powerhouse program.

During her tenure, Leak’s squad was a 4-time State qualifier, a 5A State runner-up, and went to the 5A State finals for the first time in 20 years.

Leak began her coaching career at Forest City High School before joining West Memphis. During her four-year tenure, she increased the win percentage by a staggering 1,000%. Leak has played a significant role in developing several players who went on to play college basketball at both Division I and Division II institutions.

Being a native of Arkansas, Leak is highly respected among college coaches and brings a wealth of knowledge, elite basketball experience, and a strong network of coaches and players from both the junior college level and the elite AAU circuit. She has also directed and spearheaded camps with the Jr. NBA, Ja Morant, and Mike Conley.

“I am thrilled to welcome Coach Leak and her family to Golden Lions Nation,” said Robinson. “She rose to the top of an incredibly strong group of candidates and is uniquely poised to lead our program forward. Her dynamic personality and extremely high-level basketball intelligence will enable her to come in and make an immediate impact. Most importantly, she truly cares about the student-athletes experience and will inspire our women to achieve greatness on and off the court,” said Robinson.

As a 2005 graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Leak was a 4-time Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Champion, WAC Freshman of the Year, and made an NCAA Tournament appearance all four years. She was selected 19th overall in the 2005 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics.

“I am grateful to Athletic Director Chris Robinson and Chancellor Laurence Alexander for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the Golden Lion program. I am excited to bring my competitive edge, energy, and winning spirit to this team and strive for success both on and off the court with my players for many years to come.”

Arkansas Pine Bluff womenArkansas Pine Bluff women
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff players celebrate a victory at the 2024 SWAC Basketball Tournament.

During her time at Palestine-Wheatley High School, Leak had an exceptional basketball career. She was recognized as the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2001, named to the Parade All-American team, and awarded the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 Arkansas State All-Star game. Additionally, she became the 2001 State Champion. Leak was also selected to play on the 2000 USA U19 Qualifying Olympic Team, where she was coached by the legendary Geno Auriemma.

Leak was born and raised in Wheatley, Arkansas. Her family has a history of producing standout Division I basketball players, including her brother Jason Smith (who played for Ole Miss) and her nephew Carl Baker (who played for Arkansas), and her sister Angela Gardner. Furthermore, she has four siblings who have all graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“First, I must express my gratitude to my parents, Hurley and Dorothy Smith, for instilling in me the importance of family values. My siblings have been a great source of support for me, both as a player and as a coach, and I am grateful for their unwavering encouragement. My family has always emphasized the significance of Arkansas to me, and I carry that sentiment with me wherever I go. I have deep roots in Arkansas and I’m eager to leverage my network there.”

Leak received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana Tech University in 2005 and her Master of Arts in Athletic Administration from Concordia University in 2023. She is happily married to Antonio and has five children – daughters Nia, Tyra, Laila, Demi, and a son named Jace.

Former WNBA Draftee hired for HBCU coaching job

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