Head Coach Kari Pickens looks for her third National Championship

Pickens has won a championship as a player and assistant coach, and now looks for one as a head coach


AU Athletics

Head Coach Kari Pickens talks to starting point guard Morgan Yoder on the sideline.

Brynn Meisse, Features Editor

Winning the NCAA National Championship is impressive on its own, but the potential to win three times is historical.

Head Coach Kari Pickens has been a part of the two times the Eagles have won National championships, and now looks to make it a third time.

During the 2011-2012 season, the Eagle basketball team was the national runner-up but finally won its first national championship in the 2012-2013 season.

Out of both of Pickens’ seasons playing for Ashland University, Pickens recorded 1,414 points and 903 rebounds placing her at seventh- and fourth-most all-time at the University. She still currently ranks 10 on Ashland’s All-Time scoring list. 

In the 2013 season, when the team won in San Antonio, Pickens was playing in her final year for the Eagles under Head Coach Sue Ramsey.

“Kari was a tremendous athlete with outstanding basketball skills. But, what put her in the category of the elite were her intangibles… relentless work ethic, passion, determination, discipline, and focus,” Ramsey explained. “However, above all that was and continues to be her number one driving force: to bring honor and glory to her Lord and Savior through everything she does.”

In that same campaign, although Pickens had a national championship in her short-term goals, she also realized long term, basketball was where she needed to be.

“It wasn’t until my senior year of college when I got injured and I had to miss approximately eight games of my senior year that I realized that I loved this game so much and I wanted to be able to continue in it,” she said.

After graduating from AU with her Bachelors, Pickens was offered the opportunity to work as a Graduate Assistant for Ramsey.

“When Kari finished her college/professional playing career, it was clear that we needed to keep her as part of our program. I went to five very generous supporters who also valued Kari and her contributions. We created the position for her. In addition, I knew my retirement from coaching was around the corner,” Ramsey explained. “Robyn and I wanted to have Kari in place for a seamless transition into the assistant position.”

Once Pickens finished her time as a GA, she was then offered a chance to work as the assistant coach alongside former Head Coach Robyn Fralick.

“Robyn Fralick hired me after one year of coaching experience at the college level. She didn’t have to do that,” she said while reminiscing on opportunities given to her.

Pickens was the assistant coach for the Eagles from the 2015 season through the 2018 season. She helped coach the 2017 basketball team to a national championship win in Columbus at Ohio Dominican University.

After the Eagles’ second National Championship win, Fralick went on to coach one more year before Pickens took over as the team’s head coach.

“Al King gave me a job as the head coach after zero college head coaching experience,” Pickens said. 

Al King, athletic director for AU, offered the head coaching position to Pickens after seeing her experience and skill as an assistant coach.

“Kari didn’t have head coaching experience when we hired her but she had just about everything else. I knew her basketball IQ was extremely high, she had a vision about the game and how her team should play. That’s a gift,” King said. “I watched her grow and develop as an assistant coach and believed she was ready to become a head coach.”

Al King may have been the one to hire Pickens, but many people within her support system and her faith helped the journey to become a head coach as well.

“I am really thankful that the Lord continued to open up opportunities for me to walk through and stay on this path and for a tremendous amount of people that believed in me,” Pickens said.

The Eagles are looking to win another national championship with Pickens at the helm this time.

“It’s the same thing as always. It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality. We don’t want to do anything different this game than we have the other 34 games we have played because what we have done has worked,” she explained. We are prepared. We are ready for this moment and we just have to go out there and play.”

If Pickens were to secure her third National Championship, she would be the only individual across all NCAA Divisions to do it as a player, assistant and head coach.

She will have the opportunity to complete this miraculous achievement if the Eagles are able to take down the defending National Champions, the Glenville State Pioneers, on Wednesday, March 22, in St. Joseph, Missouri.