FORT WAYNE, Ind. – IPFW Director of Athletics Kelley Hartley Hutton has announced the appointment of Niecee Nelson (pronounced Knee-C) as the school’s new women’s basketball head coach. An assistant coach at the University of San Diego of the West Coast Conference (WCC) for the past 11 seasons, Nelson becomes the 14th head coach in the 40-year history of the program in Fort Wayne. She is no stranger to IPFW, however, having served as an assistant coach for the Mastodons for one season during 2004-05, after getting her start in coaching as a graduate assistant at the University of Wyoming for two seasons (2002-04).
Nelson will be officially introduced to IPFW and the Fort Wayne community at an introductory news conference on Wednesday, April 20, at 11 a.m. at the Gates Sports Center on campus, Conference Room 246.
“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Nelson to the Mastodon family,” said Hartley Hutton. “She brings outstanding experience as a collegiate coach, along with the work ethic, passion, and enthusiasm to build IPFW into a competitive Summit League program. From an impressive pool of candidates, she best demonstrated a commitment to the student-athlete experience, academics and on court success.”
Nelson has helped lead San Diego to an overall record of 222-124 since 2005, including five consecutive 20-win seasons and postseason WNIT appearances. The Toreros, under the direction of head coach Cindy Fisher, have made one NCAA Tournament appearance since ‘05, winning the WCC Tournament in 2008, and have made six overall appearances in the WNIT … first advancing to the event in 2007. USD was 25-8 this past season, tying for the second-most wins in program history while advancing to the third round of the WNIT, after finishing 13-5 while tying for third place in the WCC.
“I am honored and thrilled to return to Fort Wayne as the head women’s basketball coach,” said Nelson. “This opportunity to join the IPFW family feels like the perfect fit. I am grateful to Kelley Hartley Hutton and the administration for having confidence in my vision for this program. We will build an exciting brand of basketball and I am committed to creating a family dynamic that fosters these student-athletes both on the court and in the classroom. I am eager to get started and my family shares in the excitement.”
Nelson’s on court responsibilities at USD included point guard and shooting guard development, while serving as the program’s offensive coordinator. She has helped develop 13 All-WCC First Team guards, including Dominique Conners, a three-time honoree and USD’s all-time leader in points (1,817) and steals (268). Nelson also helped develop Amanda Rego, the program’s only WCC Player of the Year (2006-07), who was the national assist leader that season (230), and is the school’s career leader in assists (582). This year’s representative to the All-WCC First Team was Malina Hood, USD’s career leader in three-point field goals (237), who finished her career ranked fourth in career scoring (1,515).
Nelson’s off court responsibilities at USD included serving as the program’s academic coordinator, budget management and ordering of team equipment, including uniforms and apparel, as well as managing team travel. Additionally, she shared in the duties of recruiting as well as the opponent scouting and game strategy. Nelson has also assisted in creating practice plans and individual workouts. The Toreros have placed 16 student-athletes on the WCC All-Academic Team, attained a team GPA of 3.0 for 12-straight semesters and have been nominated for NCAA Top 25 Team GPA each year since 2012.
Nelson helped USD to a 25-7 overall record in 2014-15, including second place in the WCC at 14-4, and its fourth consecutive trip to the WNIT, advancing to the second round. In 2013-14, the Toreros had an overall record of 24-9 and reached the third round of the WNIT. USD began the season with a perfect 15-0 record, which led to the program’s first-ever national ranking of No. 24 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll. The 15-0 start was the best not only in program history, but for any athletic team at the school in the Division I era.
In 2012-13, Nelson helped USD to an overall record of 22-10, including second place in the WCC at 12-4, and reached the second round of the WNIT after advancing to the championship game of the WCC Tournament. The Toreros had the WCC Freshman of the Year that season in Maya Hood, who was among three players earning All-WCC honors, including All-WCC First Team selection Amy Kame.
San Diego posted a school-record of 26-9 overall during 2011-12, including second place in the WCC at 12-4. The Toreros recorded the program’s first postseason win, defeating Cal State Northridge in the first round of the WNIT, 60-58, at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. USD advanced to the Final Four of the WNIT that season with additional wins against Pacific at home, along with road wins at Texas Tech and Washington, before falling to eventual WNIT champion Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma … the 2011-12 campaign is considered the best season in program history.
Nelson helped guide the 2007-08 team back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years, as USD won the 2008 WCC Tournament Championship with a 70-66 win against top-seeded Gonzaga. That team finished 19-13 overall. She helped guide the Toreros to their biggest turn around in program history during her second season of 2006-07, a 12-game improvement from 9-19 in 2005-06, her first season in San Diego, to a 21-9 record in 2006-07 behind WCC Co-Player of the Year Amanda Rego. That 2006-07 squad made the program’s first-ever WNIT appearance.
Nelson was an assistant at IPFW during 2004-05, with primary responsibilities in team travel, post player development, marketing and academic support. Within two months of arriving at IPFW, she was promoted to recruiting coordinator, leading the charge in overseas recruiting into Brazil and Europe. Nelson’s marketing efforts helped increase attendance at women’s basketball games that season.
Prior to IPFW, Nelson served as a graduate assistant at Wyoming with Coach Fisher. She worked closely with the staff and team on practice and game day coaching, individual workouts, academic support, film exchange, and guard and post development. Nelson helped the Cowgirls to an 18-12 record in 2002-03, as the 18 wins were the school’s most victories since 1989-90. She also helped lead the Cowgirls to their first postseason appearance since 1989-90 with a trip to the 2003 WNIT, where Wyoming notched a first-round win against Montana, marking the first postseason victory in Wyoming women’s basketball history.
Nelson earned 2001 NAIA All-America honors at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. A two-time team captain, she was also named to the 2001 Lutheran Brotherhood All-America Team, and was a scholar-athlete at Concordia. Nelson was a two-time All-Cascade Conference First Team selection (2001, 2002), and the 1998 Cascade Conference Freshman of the Year, as well.
Nelson graduated from Concordia in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education with an emphasis in Elementary Education, adding minors in Business Marketing and Psychology. She earned a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health with an emphasis in Health Promotion from Wyoming in 2004.
Niecee and her husband, Steve, have two children: son Sebastian (8) and daughter Skyler (2).