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Le’Coe Willingham to become head women’s coach at Fort Valley State

Willingham is leaving Tenn. State and returning to home state to reboot the Lady Wildcats

WNBA veteran Le’Coe Willingham, the new women’s head basketball coach at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, can’t wait to help guide the Lady Wildcats back to prominence.

The native of Augusta, Georgia, who played with five WNBA teams over 10 years and who was a member of the 2009 WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury, inherits a 10-17 squad that is looking to regain prominence in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“It is our pleasure to welcome Coach Le’Coe Willingham to the Fort Valley State family and Wildcat Country,” said director of athletics Darryl Pope. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will move our program in the right direction. She has the ability to motivate players on and off the court.”

The former All-SEC standout at Auburn University brings more than just a player’s perspective to the Fort Valley program. Before accepting the position in Fort Valley, Willingham served as a women’s assistant coach at Tennessee State University.

There, Willingham performed duties as the individual post coach and defensive coordinator while also helping in recruiting. In the 2014-15 season, Willingham’s defensive work with the team forced opponents into an average of 20.2 turnovers a game and helped lead the Tigers to an Ohio Valley Conference title and NCAA tournament berth.

“I am really big on defense. If you can play defense you can compete with anyone,” said Willingham.

While Willingham’s defensive mindset might have the most immediate impact for the Lady Wildcats, she says she is approaching the season with an open mind and is looking to adapt her offensive strategy to her personnel.

“I don’t like to come in with a game plan,” Willingham said. “I like to see what I have and then play to my team’s strengths.”

Willingham says she is aiming to teach her players the nuances of the game in hopes of restoring Fort Valley State to success.

“I am humbled and very excited about the opportunity that Dr. Pope has given me,” Willingham said. “I am big on teaching the game of basketball and teaching players how to think the game while they are playing it.”

Donovan Dooley is a former Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.