WBCA Thirty Under 30 - Kari Pickens

Kari Pickens assumed the role of full-time assistant coach at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, before the start of the 2015-16 season, and helped guide the Eagles to an impressive 31-2 record and their third Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament crown in the past five seasons. Pickens joined the Eagles’ staff as a graduate assistant for two seasons after wrapping up a standout two-year playing career at Ashland. Pickens also serves as the recruiting coordinator.

Tell us a little about your background?
I grew up on a dairy farm in a small town called Fresno, Ohio. My entire family played basketball, which allowed me to start playing in third grade. I won two state championships in high school playing alongside my older sister, Kristin (Daugherty) Ronai and being coached by my parents, Caroline and Bill Daugherty.

I spent my first two years of college at University of Dayton; again, playing alongside my older sister. It was a great experience and I loved the program. However, my faith and my family (I got homesick) made me want to find a new home and I transferred to Ashland University after my sophomore season. I had the privilege of playing in two NCAA Division II national championship games and we won the national championship my senior year. I was blessed to win the NCAA Division II National Player of the Year Award both seasons at Ashland as well as the Honda Cup Female Athlete of the Year award both years.

After graduation I married my husband, Brad Pickens. We spent seven months in Australia, where I had the opportunity to play basketball for the Lakeside Lightning. During that season, my team finished 23-3 and lost in the Grand Final game. After that season, I came back to coach at Ashland and my husband got a job teaching P.E. and health at a local high school where he is also a varsity football coach. 

I have been at Ashland ever since I returned, and I absolutely love being a part of such a great program and community! I am so thankful to my first head coach — Sue Ramsey — for doing so much to get me at Ashland, and to my current head coach — Robyn Fralick — for giving me a chance as her full-time assistant!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read, go on walks and spend quality time with my husband.

When did you know you wanted to be a coach?

During my senior season of college I injured my knee and missed eight games during the middle/end of the year. Fortunately, I was able to come back in time for tournaments, but that time sitting out made me realize that I love the game of basketball and would love to coach. 

Do you have any pregame rituals?

No pregame rituals; I don't believe in luck!

What is/are the most challenging part(s) of your role?

Keeping life in the balance. It's one of the greatest parts of NCAA Division II basketball, and it's something that I want to strive for in my life. However, is also something I struggle with especially during season! I want to model for my players the type of lifestyle that is healthy and balanced. 

How do you work through these challenges?

I have learned to say no to non-essential things in my life. I take more time to spend with my husband doing things that we both enjoy doing (8-10 hours a week to be exact). I have gotten better at leaving things at work and being present when I am home!

Briefly state your coaching philosophy; What values are important to you that you try to instill in your student-athletes? 

My coaching philosophy is one that tries to develop well-rounded young women through the sport of basketball. I definitely want my players to improve at the game of basketball, but that is simply a part of being well-rounded. Being the best daughter, sister, student, wife, friend and basketball player is what I want them to learn during their time with me. 

Here is my transformational purpose statement: "Model authenticity and integrity by acting and speaking with truth and love with the hope that others may see and embrace the foundation of truth."

What is your favorite memory in your current coaching role thus far?

Watching one of our captain’s leadership transform over the course of a season when she didn't really get to play very much. She still had a HUGE impact on the team, though, with the amount of positive energy she brought.

What does it mean to you to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree?

It is a recognition that has made me reflect on why I coach! With the honor that comes with this award, also comes more attention from fans, players, etc. and I realize that I need to be one hundred percent certain as to why I coach the way I do and the purpose for which I coach. Being recognized as a WBCA "Thirty Under 30" honoree has made me want to become better.

The WBCA recognizes annually the WBCA's Thirty Under 30 recipients. This recognition was created to honor thirty of the up-and-coming women's basketball coaches age 30 and under in the sport at all levels of the game. For more information on the award, click here.

Release Date: 
Tuesday, September 6, 2016