Big South names award after local 'legend'

For the Record
Posted 6/14/22

The Big South Conference announced that its annual Female Athlete of the Year Award will be named in honor of a South Johnston and Campbell University basketball alum. 

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Big South names award after local 'legend'


CHARLOTTE — The Big South Conference announced that its annual Female Athlete of the Year Award will be named in honor of a South Johnston and Campbell University basketball alum. 

Beginning with the 2021-22 honoree named next month, the accolade recognizes Wanda Watkins — a Big South and Campbell Hall of Fame coach and administrator.

“I am unbelievably honored and touched to have received this news from (Big South) Commissioner (Kyle) Kallander,” Watkins said to conference officials about the decision released Tuesday, June 7. “I am so humbled as I truly feel there are others who are more worthy than myself of this prestigious honor.”

Watkins spent 35 years as Campbell’s women’s basketball head coach before retiring after the 2015-16 season, and her official coaching tenure in the Big South totaled 14 years — from 1986 to 94 and 2011 to 16. She went 230-145 overall during her time in the Big South, which included a 135-67 record in conference games — still the third-most overall wins among Big South women’s basketball coaches, and fourth-most for league games.

“We are thrilled to announce the naming of the Big South Conference Female Athlete of the Year Award after Wanda Watkins,” said Kallander. “Wanda is a true legend in the Big South, and a pioneer in women’s collegiate sports. She is highly decorated at Campbell University and in the Big South, but her real impact has come in the lives of the student-athletes that benefited from having her as a coach and mentor. We couldn’t have anyone more deserving of this honor than Wanda Watkins.”

The former South hoops alum was a three-time all-state player and led the Lady Trojans to its lone state championship in 1974.   

In 1975, Watkins became Campbell’s first female scholarship student-athlete and was later named graduate assistant coach in 1979. She was hired as the school’s head coach in 1981.

A two-time regular-season champion (1988, 1991), Watkins directed the Lady Camels to the first six Big South Championship games and finished 16-12 in the conference tournament with a title in 1989. Her six title-game appearances remain second-most in league history.

Watkins was voted Big South Coach of the Year twice (1987, 1991) and won at least 20 games five times during her time in the conference.

She retired as the 29th-winningest head coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball and her 2000 squad clinched the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth

Watkins now serves as Senior Associate Athletics Director after moving into the Senior Woman Administrator position when she retired from coaching, and sits on various Big South committees.

The award was established in March 2000 to recognize the conference’s top female athlete from the most recently completed season, and the candidates consist of the players of the year from each sport.

“I revere the Big South Conference and have enjoyed the many relationships over the years as a coach and as an administrator,” Watkins added. “I feel almost as though someone will wake me up in a few minutes and tell me that I am dreaming.”


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