Nicky Anosike finds next adventure at Girls Inc.

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

Nicky Anosike likes a challenge – and she found it when she accepted an offer to become the athletics director at a local nonprofit seeking to reenergize its sports programs for girls.

“I saw Girls Inc. was hiring and I got a call back soon after I submitted my resume,” Anosike told Knox TN Today. “I spoke with Executive Director Amanda Ingle, and we hit it off right away.”

Anosike, a former Tennessee basketball player who won two national titles at Tennessee, has made her home in Knoxville since she returned in 2018 to serve as a Lady Vol graduate assistant at her alma mater. She famously took a sledgehammer to the girls locker room at Anderson County High School when she became the head coach in 2020 in a story than can be read HERE because she saw how poorly it compared to what the boys had.

She had to leave the post after enduring a difficult pregnancy of twins, one of whom needed months of care to survive. Anosike took up basketball training in 2022 in a story that can be read on this site HERE.

“The boys turned 2 and they’re a little bit more independent, they don’t need me as much, so I’m like, ‘Maybe I should try to find the job,’ ” Anosike said.

That led her to Girls Inc. of TN Valley (GITNV), which serves girls in Knox, Anderson and Blount counties.

“For four years, under the tutelage of legendary coach Pat Summitt, Nkolika “Nicky” Anosike learned not only about the game of basketball, but also more notably the game of life,” the organization said after she was hired. “Summitt realized that Nicky would be the hardest worker she had ever coached and one of the best-ever Lady Vol leaders. Welcome to GITNV, Nicky!”

Anosike, who has held the position for just five weeks, is now overseeing the softball program and is tasked with reviving a dormant basketball program that doesn’t yet have a gym or equipment. So, she started making phone calls to all her connections, including Dean Lockwood, who coached her at Tennessee and is now at Michigan State.

Coach Karen Weekly

With a low number of available players, she shifted fall softball to training and skills development to prepare for a spring season – and realized she needed on-field assistance. Lockwood provided the now-retired Ralph Weekly’s number, and he put Anosike in touch with his wife, Karen Weekly.

The Tennessee softball head coach immediately offered to send small groups of her SEC champion players to Oak Ridge, where the Girls Inc. softball field is located, every Tuesday to help. The first two to arrive were infielder Taylor Pannell and pitcher Karlyn Pickens.

“I am so thankful, because I don’t know how to teach softball, but I want these girls to have a great experience and to learn,” Anosike said. “They text me the day before and let me know, ‘I’ll arrive at this time, I’m excited to work with the girls and I’m excited to meet you.’

“I love that they’re playing well, and they’re succeeding in their sport, but the most important thing is the Lady Vols are really classy, upstanding young women. It makes me proud to stand alongside them and train these girls and makes me proud to have been a part of it and to still be a part of it.”

Anosike also set up meetings with retired Tennessee women’s athletics director Joan Cronan, former Lady Vol staff member Danielle Donehew, who is now the executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Terri Holder and the Lady Vols Boost HER Club,  Dana Hart of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Tyler Summitt of The Pat Summitt Leadership Group.

The Boost HER Club already plans to hold a clinic later with Lady Vol players and provide a clean-up day at the softball field in 2024 before the Girls Inc. season starts.

Nicky Anosike as a Lady Vol in 2005 (Tennessee Athletics)

One of the biggest needs, too, is equipment, such as bats and gloves, which can be prohibitively expensive, and the girls have to bring their own. Anosike called former Lady Vols Natalie Brock and India Chiles, who played softball when Anosike was at Tennessee, and both have connections with BSN Sports, a national distributor of team sports apparel and equipment. Plans are to roll out a registry with BSN of needed equipment and former Lady Vols can select items to buy.

Basketball is essentially being built from scratch, and Triple F Elite Sports Training in Solway has offered its gym for training on Saturdays for the next two months. The Lady Vols Boost HER Club also is providing basketballs and some shirts.

A special fundraising event is being planned by Ingle at the Women’s Basketball of Hall on May 9, 2024, with details to come.

“Amanda has a heart for the girls,” Anosike said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that she cares about this.”

Anosike also has reached out to Tennessee coach Kellie Harper and Memphis coach Alex Fuller Simmons about possibly holding an event with both teams in Knoxville at Fulton High School before the Tigers and Lady Vols play on Nov. 13. Anosike and Simmons played at Tennessee at the same time.

Tennessee women’s basketball team photo 2007-08: Nicky Anosike, No. 55, and Alex Fuller, No. 44, are next to each other on back row.

A third component Anosike wants to add is character development for all 1,200 girls in various Girls Inc. programs with Pat Summitt’s Definite Dozen. The feasibility and cost of a large-scale venture remains in discussion with the Pat Summitt Leadership Group.

Basketball has big needs because of the lack of a permanent place to train and practice. Both basketball and softball also need to solve the logistics of transportation, so that more girls could participate, especially since the softball field is in Oak Ridge.

“Oh, my goodness we need some money,” said Anosike, whose position has to be part-time. “There are a lot of barriers we are trying to overcome. We need to raise money specifically for our needs that goes directly to our athletics program.”

Anyone who wants to help can donate now HERE.

Another goal is to bring more young Black girls into softball. California implemented a program years ago to do so in baseball and added softball. One of the girls in the softball program, Kenora Posey, who is from Los Angeles, went on to play at Tennessee from 2005-08, the same years as Anosike.

Anosike had more motivation to go back to work. Her twins, Chiemezie and Cheluchi, with husband Uzochukwu Chidinma Chima are now enrolled in the precursor to pre-school with two days of in-home instruction during the week and two days a month at school before enrolling full-time at age 3. She is on track to complete her doctorate in public policy next May. Her husband works 60 hours a week in manufacturing. His mother, who lives in Nigeria, now needs dialysis three days a week, and Anosike and Chima are paying for her medical expenses.

Girls Inc.’s motto is: Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. The position with Girls Inc. aligns with Anosike’s background and aspirations.

Nicky Anosike with twins Luchi and Mez.

“As I researched Girls Inc. and what they stood for – the strong, smart, bold model that they proclaim is exactly who I have become through sports, through being able to go to college and the education piece that is so important to me,” Anosike said.

“I knew that I’d be serving a population that has in a lot of ways been left behind, and I knew that I was one of those kids when I was younger. Everything fit together, and it seemed like it was where I was supposed to be.”


Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at MoxCar Marketing + Communications since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


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