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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Former WNBA Players Selected As Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Next Women’s Basketball Coach


University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff has announced its new women’s basketball coach after the departure of Dawn Thornton, who has transitioned to head the Alabama A&M women’s program.

The Golden Lions have appointed Erica Leak, a former WNBA draft pick and home-state prodigy, as their new head coach.

“First, I would like to thank God for orchestrating the perfect timing [and] the perfect place to begin my college coaching career,” said Leak to begin her opening remarks during her introductory press conference.

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. 

“Upon my arrival to campus, it felt like home, like family, it felt right.”


Leak was a standout guard who was the number one high school recruit coming out of Arkansas in the 2001 class. She committed to Louisiana Tech to play all four years, leading the team to the NCAA tournament each year.

The Arkansas-born player averaged 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.2 steals in 112 career games. She was named to two All-WAC teams, two WAC All-Defensive teams, and two WAC All-Tournament teams.

“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.”

Leak then transitioned to the pro level, where she was selected for the second round of the 2005 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics.

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 my sister Angela Gardner. Furthermore, she has four siblings who have all graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Her most recent coaching experience came as the head coach of the West Memphis High School girl’s basketball team.

“I will take my knowledge and experience to instill the spirit of excellence into this team.”

“Players will understand and respect the rich, historic tradition, and they will play with pride. They will understand what it means to put that jersey on with UAPB across their chest, and they will know it’s bigger than them. They will play for the ones that came before them. We will strive for academic excellence and be on the path for career success. They will also understand the importance of giving back and serving their community, knowing that serving someone other than yourself is very important.”

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.

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