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Jennifer Azzi and Nikki Caldwell: Basketball greats from Oak Ridge – Oakridger


D. Ray Smith

Carolyn Krause brings us the story of two of Oak Ridge’s nice basketball gamers. Las Vegas Aces gained the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball finals on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, by a rating of 78 to 71 over the Connecticut Solar. https://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/34619557/las-vegas-aces-win-their-first-wnba-title-beating-connecticut-sun-game-4-finals-chelsea-gray-named-mvp

ORHS basketball stars Nikki Caldwell (Fargas) and Jennifer Azzi are each high executives with the Las Vegas Aces.

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Las Vegas Aces chief business development officer Jennifer Azzi, left, and A'ja Wilson, right, present a custom leather jacket to Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird before a WNBA basketball game Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, in Las Vegas. The game was Bird's final regular-season WNBA game. (AP Photo/Sam Morris)

Two of the best-known feminine basketball gamers and coaches who discovered to play and win beneath Jill Prudden, women’ basketball coach at Oak Ridge Excessive College for 31 years, are Jennifer Azzi (1987 ORHS graduate) and Nikki Caldwell (1990 ORHS graduate). The lives and careers of each excellent athletes and sports activities leaders are described in Wikipedia.   In 2010, Prudden retired from her teaching profession. Her achievements included a 908-161 general win-and-loss document, three state championships, 25 district titles and 20 regional titles. She additionally wrote with Van Chancellor the 2005 e book “Teaching Women’ Basketball Efficiently.” Azzi and Caldwell helped Prudden’s ORHS workforce win the championships. A yr earlier than Prudden retired, Azzi was elected to the Ladies’s Basketball Corridor of Fame in Knoxville. A degree guard on championship highschool, school {and professional} basketball groups, she was honored for her many accomplishments. 

Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis, left, speaks with Aces president Nikki Fargas before Game 4 of a WNBA basketball final playoff series against the Connecticut Sun, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

She performed on the championship U.S. ladies’s basketball workforce on the Winter Olympic Video games of 1996, making her an Olympic Gold Medalist. She performed 5 seasons within the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation. On account of her recreation performances with the Detroit Shock (1999), Utah Starzz (2000-2002) and San Antonio Silver Stars (2002-2003), she retired because the All-Time WNBA chief in three-point subject aim proportion. She grew to become head coach of the ladies’s basketball workforce on the College of San Francisco in 2010 and retired in 2016. One of many unique gamers of the American Basketball League, Azzi began for the San Jose Lasers and appeared in all three ABL all-star video games (1996, 1997, 1998). She performed on 13 U.S.A. Basketball groups that compiled a 114-14 document, and she led two groups that completed the season as world champions.  An economics main at Stanford College in California, Azzi scored quite a few basketball achievements as an athlete on scholarship with the ladies’s workforce there. She was named an All-American guard, was acknowledged as the all-time three-point shooter and held Stanford’s document for assists in a recreation, recording 16 in opposition to Brigham Younger College in 1987-88. Whereas at Stanford her workforce compiled a 101-23 document, and she led the Cardinal to the 1990 NCAA Ladies’s Division Basketball Nationwide Championship wherein Stanford defeated Auburn College. As well as, as a Stanford Cardinal star level guard, she was awarded in 1990 the Wade Trophy and named Naismith Participant of the Yr. The workforce she led gained two Pacific-10 Championships within the 1988-1989 and 1989-1990 seasons following which Azzi was named PAC-10 Participant of the Yr. She was the youngest inductee into the Stanford Corridor of Fame.

Azzi, 54, had been dwelling in Mill Valley, Calif., along with her spouse Blair Hardiek, and so they have two youngsters: a son, Macklin, and a daughter, Camden. Azzi is a motivational speaker who additionally has run summer season youth basketball camps, known as the Azzi Camp. In 2021 she grew to become chief enterprise growth officer for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, and Hardiek was named the workforce’s chief advertising and communications officer. Nikki Caldwell (Yolanda Nicole Fargas), 50, a extremely regarded basketball participant at ORHS and the College of Tennessee, is the president of the Las Vegas Aces. She is the niece of Mike Caldwell, an Oak Ridger who performed within the Nationwide Soccer League for 11 seasons and is now protection coordinator for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Born in Oak Ridge, she was raised by her mom. The ORHS women’ basketball workforce Caldwell performed for gained the Tennessee state championship in 1988. As of 2009, she nonetheless held the highschool’s single-season information for complete factors scored and for profitable free throws.  In accordance with Wikipedia, “Caldwell attended UT from 1990 to 1994, enjoying as a guard beneath coach Pat Summitt on the college’s Woman Vols basketball workforce, which compiled a 118–13 won-loss document throughout her enjoying years. Caldwell was recognized for her robust defensive play and her three-point taking pictures.  “Her defensive play within the 1991 NCAA event last recreation, wherein the Woman Vols defeated the College of Virginia in additional time, was thought-about a key think about her workforce’s victory. She was named to the Southeastern Convention (SEC) All-Freshman workforce that very same yr, and in each her junior and senior years she acquired the college’s Gloria Ray Management Award.  “Though she missed parts of two seasons resulting from accidents, her four-year statistics as a three-point shooter, with 128 three-point subject targets made out of 364 makes an attempt, place her within the all-time high 10 at Tennessee.”  After receiving a bachelor’s diploma in public relations in 1994at UT, Caldwell served as a shade analyst for Fox Sports activities Internet South broadcasts of Woman Vol basketball video games and later for Fox broadcasts of the SEC Sport of the Week. On this place she supplied skilled evaluation and background data, akin to statistics, technique and harm stories on the groups and athletes. In 1997, she grew to become host for sports activities segments on the Store at Dwelling Community. The subsequent yr she returned to basketball as a member of Pat Summitt’s teaching employees.  Then she grew to become an assistant coach for the College of Virginia. She returned to UT as assistant coach for the 2002-03 season and recruiting director beginning within the spring of 2003. In 2008 she was named the pinnacle coach at the College of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a five-year contract valued at practically $1.5 million. Through the 2009–2010 season, UCLA positioned second within the Pacific Coast Convention (Pac-10) with a 25–9 document because the workforce misplaced to second-ranked Stanford within the Pac-10 event. Nonetheless, Caldwell was named 2010 Pac-10 Coach of the Yr by the convention coaches and by the media in her second yr of teaching at UCLA.  In accordance with Wikipedia, “Her success was unprecedented at UCLA’s ladies’s basketball and she or he sought a big increase in her contract. Regardless of a reported supply of a beneficiant enhance by UCLA, the college couldn’t match the $900,000 yearly that Louisiana State College provided so she returned to educate within the SEC at LSU.” She served as LSU Woman Tigers head coach for 10 years, from 2011 to 2021. In seven seasons main the workforce, she posted a 131-90 document because the workforce superior to the NCAA Event every of these years. She resigned from LSU in April 2021, and a month later, she landed a place as president of Las Vegas Aces, a WNBA workforce. In 2007, Caldwell and Holly Warlick, then a former assistant coach of the UT Woman Vols ladies’s basketball workforce (and later head coach after Pat Summitt died of Alzheimer’s illness), started taking three long-distance bike highway journeys, known as “Cruisin’ for a Trigger,” to advertise consciousness of breast most cancers and to boost cash for analysis on this illness. Of their first journey, in 2007, they rode their Harley-Davidson bikes from Berkeley, California to Knoxville. As of 2008, the 2 ladies’s nonprofit group, Champions for a Trigger, had raised practically $100,000. The 2010 highway journey took them via Washington, D.C., and New York to Niagara Falls and again. In Could 2009 Caldwell acquired the Lady of Excellence Award from the Ladylike Basis for her excellence as a coach and for fundraising actions for breast most cancers consciousness. In March 2012, based on Wikipedia, Yolanda Nicole Fargas (aka Nikki Caldwell), now 50, “gave delivery to a woman named Justice along with her husband, former Oakland Raiders participant Justin Fargas (coincidentally, the Raiders possession acquired the Aces when she joined the workforce). Her father-in-law, Antonio Fargas, was an actor who performed Huggy Bear within the Seventies TV collection “Starsky and Hutch.” Azzi and Caldwell each have a lot in frequent as distinguished gamers for ORHS and two college groups, in addition to head coaches of college groups in California. Each have gained quite a few awards. Now, each have government positions with the Las Vegas Aces. Prudden have to be very happy with their successes within the skilled ladies’s basketball world.

Carolyn Krause

Thanks Carolyn.​

D. Ray Smith, writer for the Historically Speaking column.
Legendary Oak Ridge High School basketball coach Jill Prudden.
The cover of Jill Prudden's book. A high-school age Nikki Caldwell is on the cover

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