Search

EC OBSERVER: Coaches' Corner With Nicki Wurdeman

Assistant coach Nicki Wurdeman looks on during a team timeout.

BEVERLY, Mass. — While the Endicott women's basketball team may be younger than teams of years' past, the Gulls are in the thick of the grind in the last week of the regular season, and are looking to the leadership of its six upperclassmen and coaching staff.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Endicott looks poised to make its 15th-straight Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) postseason appearance and 21st of the 24 years as a varsity program since its inception in the 1993-94 season.

The Gulls have advanced to the CCC Semifinals in each of the past five seasons, highlighted by an appearance in the CCC Championship in 2011-12 and an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) title in 2013-14 under the direction of head coach Brittany Hutchinson, now in her sixth season at the helm of the program.

Through 167 career games coached, Hutchinson is nearing her 100th career victory as she currently sits at 98-69 overall and 68-38 in conference play. She is the longest tenured coach the women's basketball team has ever had.

Joining Hutchinson on the sidelines this season are several other important coaches who make up the staff: Jeff SwirkaCaity Lowry '16, Nicole "Nicki" Wurdeman, and student assistants Jordin Pino '17Kara Hersey '20, and Kayla Kobelski '20.

As the Gulls look to make a strong playoff push while presently slotted in fourth place in the conference standings at 12-11 overall and 11-5 in conference play after earning a huge conference victory over CCC leader Roger Williams on Saturday, they have a little help on the bench from someone who is no stranger to postseason magic on the national stage.

NICKI WURDEMAN 

Enter, Wurdeman, who is in her first season as an assistant coach with the program.

Wurdeman, joined the Gulls this year after spending the past four seasons as a volunteer assistant coach with her alma mater, Babson College. During her playing days at Babson (2008-12), she helped raise four consecutive New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) banners and led the team deep into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament four separate times as a standout member of the women's basketball team.

A 2012 graduate of Babson with a B.S. in Business Management-Marketing, is the Beavers' all-time leading scorer with 2,042 career points. She also ranks second all-time in career blocks (190), fourth in rebounds (1,017), and ninth in steals (191) in 120 games played.

Wurdeman was the first student-athlete in Babson historymale or femaleto surpass 2,000 career points, and became the fourth student-athlete in program history to notch both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds as a tandem achievement in 2011-12.

As one of the most decorated student-athletes to ever go through Babson, Wurdeman comes to Beverly, Mass. where she "really enjoys the sense of community at Endicott and the small school feel. The facilities are great and the campus is beautiful," Wurdeman remarked.  

After spending the past four seasons at Babson where she helped guide the Beavers to an appearance in three more NEWMAC Finals, winning two championships in 2012-13 and again in 2014-15, Wurdeman looks to build upon her experiences and help the Gulls taste more of that postseason success.

WURDEMAN EMBRACES HER ROLE AS AN ASSISTANT COACH

When asked to describe what kind of coach she is, Wurdeman first explained how the dynamic of Endicott's coaching staff helps to create a collaborative environment.

"There's a lot of different opinions and ideas that somehow all come together. Everyone has the opportunity to have the floor and express their thoughts," said Wurdeman. "With that, I would say that I'm a more low-key coach. I like to get down to the players' levels and use my own playing experiences as coaching points."

Taking her playing days into account when she was a team captain her senior year to now as a coach, she said she has developed even more of an appreciation for the role of a coach. This is especially true going from leading a life as a successful student-athlete to now being one the team looks to as even more of an authoritative leader.

"I guess I never really understood how much went on behind the scenes for the coaching staff. As a student-athlete, my job was to go to class and then go to practice. I didn't realize that in the time that I was going to class, Babson's head coach (Judy Blinstrub) and the rest of the coaching staff was scouting other teams, watching our own film, and coming up with practice plans for each day. There's a lot that you don't even think about!" said Wurdeman.

LIFE ON AND OFF THE COURT

Today, Wurdeman is responsible for helping the Gulls in those same areas of practice planning, in-game coaching, and recruiting, all while balancing her full-time job at a mortgage company Middleton, Mass. and living in Medford, Mass. Prior to obtaining her current role at Franklin American Mortgage in October 2016, she worked as a physical education teacher at Young World Physical Education in Quincy, Mass.

"I have a full-time job in Middleton, so unfortunately, it doesn't allow me to attend all practices. When the schedules line up, my Endicott responsibilities do include practices, games, and recruiting. On many of the days that I cannot attend a game or practice, I go to the games of recruits in the area," said Wurdeman. "I get to my day job at about 8:00 every morning and work until about 5:00 p.m. When practices are late, I head right over to Endicott. Once practice is over, we meet for a bit and go over the practice and what went well and what we still need work on."

Outside of coaching, Wurdeman somehow still finds the time to continue to play basketball in fall, winter, and spring adult leagues.

"I couldn't imagine not continuing to play. Other than that, I have a close group of friends that I hang out with. My family lives close by as well and I spend a lot of time with them," said Wurdeman.

THE GLORY DAYS 

Wurdeman enjoyed a storied career as a four-year member of the Beavers' women's basketball program in which she was a four-time All-NEWMAC First-Team selection and a three-time All-America honoree among many other career achievements and awards on her résumé.

OVERALL CAREER ACCOLADES

  • 4x NEWMAC All-Conference First Team (2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09)
  • 3x NEWMAC Player of the Year (2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10)
  • 3x D3hoops.com All-Northeast First Team (2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10)
  • 3x NEWBA All-New England First Team (2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10)
  • 2x D3hoops.com All-America Second Team (2011-12, 2010-11)
  • 2x WBCA/State Farm All-America Honorable Mention (2010-11, 2009-10)

Wurdeman, who was named the NEWMAC Player of the Year in each of her final three years and garnered All-Region recognition in four straight seasons, was coached by Babson's longtime coach, Judy Blinstrub. Blinstrub is currently in her 33rd season at Babson as a six-time conference Coach of the Year honoree and New England Women's Basketball Association (NEWBA) Division 3 Coach of the Year in 1993 and 2011. Wurdeman credits Coach Blinstrub, who recently earned her 600th career victory, as a coaching inspiration.

"The best coach I ever had was Judy Blinstrub at Babson. Coming out of high school from a small school, I had very raw talent. She took that and shaped me into the player I became. From not even scoring 1,000 points in high school to scoring over 2,000 in college, I would say she did her job! I really look up to her as a coach and have so much respect for her," said Wurdeman.

Wurdeman, a 6-foot-1 forward originally from Rowley, Mass. and Triton Regional High School, and the Beavers enjoyed unparalleled success during Wurdeman's career, winning four straight NEWMAC Tournament titles and reaching the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons while posting an overall record of 104-17.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS AND PERSONAL REFLECTION

Babson went unbeaten in conference play from 2009-12 and twice appeared in the NCAA Division III Sectional Final in 2010 and again in 2011, when the Beavers finished 30-1, after starting the year undefeated at 30-0, before falling to the eventual NCAA national champion, Amherst, in the national quarterfinals.

2008-09

  • NEWMAC All-Conference First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-Northeast Second Team
  • NEWBA All-Region Second Team
  • NEWMAC Rookie of the Year
  • NEWBA Rookie of the Year
  • ECAC New England Rookie of the Year
  • D3hoops.com Northeast Rookie of the Year

As a freshman in 2008-09, Wurdeman's team fell in the NCAA First Round, but she collected numerous postseason hardware as a rookie, including D3hoops.com All-Northeast Second Team, NEWBA All-Region Second Team, NEWMAC Rookie of the Year, NEWBA Rookie of the Year, ECAC New England Rookie of the Year, and D3hoops.com Northeast Rookie of the Year honors as she started all 29 games and led the team in scoring in the first of all four years to come.

2009-10

  • NEWMAC All-Conference First Team
  • NEWMAC Player of the Year
  • ECAC All-New England Second Team
  • NEWBA All-New England First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-Northeast First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-America Third Team (At the time, was just the second player in program history to earn All-America honors)
  • WBCA/State Farm All-America Honorable Mention

As a sophomore, Wurdeman and the Beavers went 28-4 in 2009-10including a perfect 21-0 mark in NEWMAC playto win their second straight NEWMAC title, and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. At the conclusion of the season, Wurdeman became just the second Babson women's basketball player to be named an All-American, garnering Third Team honors from D3hoops.com and Honorable Mention status from the WBCA, while Blinstrub was named NEWMAC and New England Coach of the Year.

"The best basketball memory I have is when we began our run to the Elite Eight my sophomore year. We were very young. None of us had played in an as competitive games like this before. We were playing at Colby College and the place was packed. Our first game was against Emmanuel and we won by a large margin. Next we played Colby. It was a tough battle the entire way with each team going basket for basket. The game went to overtime and it was crazy. We came out on top and I can just remember getting into the locker room with my teammates and spraying our water bottles all in the air and just the accomplished feeling we had was one of the best I've ever felt. We were heading to the Sweet 16 and could not have been more pumped and excited," recalled Wurdeman.

2010-11

  • NEWMAC All-Conference First Team
  • NEWMAC Player of the Year
  • NEWMAC Tournament Co-Most Outstanding Player
  • ECAC All-New England First Team
  • NEWBA All-New England First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-America Second Team
  • D3hoops.com All-Northeast First Team
  • WBCA/State Farm All-America Honorable Mention

In Wurdeman's junior season in 2010-11 when she scored the second-most points in Babson's single-season history (578), the Beavers won their first 30 contests and made the program's second straight appearance in the Elite Eight, before falling to eventual the National Champion, Amherst, 80-65, in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals. In addition to setting a program record for consecutive wins with 20 and a school-record 28 victories before tacking on two more, the Beavers earned the distinction of being the last remaining undefeated women's basketball team in the country across all three levels of play (Division I, II, or III). Furthermore, Wurdeman garnered D3hoops.com and WBCA Honorable Mention All-America honors for the second season in a row, and Blinstrub was named NEWMAC, New England, and District I Coach of the Year.

2011-12

  • Named Babson's Co-Female Athlete of the Class along with teammate Kathleen King at the 2012 Senior Athletics Awards Banquet
  • Named D3hoops.com Preseason All-America First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-Northeast First Team
  • D3hoops.com All-America Second Team
  • NEWBA Player of the Year
  • NEWBA All-New England First Team
  • WBCA All-America First Team
  • NEWMAC All-Conference First Team
  • NEWMAC Player of the Year

As a senior, Wurdeman and the 2011-12 squad went 26-3, won its fourth straight NEWMAC title, and advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, Blinstrub collected her 500th career coaching victory and Wurdeman became the first player in Babson history to surpass 2,000 career points (finishing with 2,042). Wurdeman earned her third straight D3hoops.com All-America honor while becoming the first person in program history to be one of the ten players selected to the WBCA All-America First Team. As a team, Babson finished first in the nation in Division III with a .298 field goal percentage against and a +15.2 rebound advantage per game.

"The number one thing I miss about playing is the competitive aspect. As a coach, it's very different not being on the floor and competing. That was one of the hardest things to get used to my first year coaching. When you love the game so much, it's hard not to want to be playing," said Wurdeman.

A COLLECTIVE EFFORT

When considering the level of competition they will face and day-to-day responsibilities of everyone on a team, Wurdeman offered her take on how she intends to use her own experiences of working toward success late in the season and in the playoffs to relay to Endicott that it really is a full-team effort.

Here is her advice for why you have to give it all you've got:

"My sophomore year at Babson we made it to the Elite Eight. It was the first time the program had made it that far into the tournament. The whole experience was surreal because we were a very young team and never thought we would have had much success as we did. The late part of the season can be tough; your body hurts, your tired, and you can't help but think about all the free time you're going to have come spring when the season ends. But there is nothing quite like the feeling of competing in a game where it's do or die. The best advice I can give is just give it everything you have and leave it all on the court because you will look back down the road and wish you had. Those thoughts of 'could I have done more?' will stick with you. These days of playing will be some of the best of your life," said Wurdeman.

The Gulls (12-11, 11-5 CCC) return to action tonight as they have a home date with Salve Regina University at 5:30 p.m as part of "Show Your LOVE" Night to promote the campus-wide "I See, I Speak, I Pledge" campaign. There will be a "Stress Ball Giveaway" for lucky fans in attendace. Each ball will have a number assigned to it and we will draw numbers throughout the game for prizes. Don't forget to check into the GULL NATION app for 50 points!

For the latest on Endicott Athletics, follow the Gulls on social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Feature article submitted by Annie Jenkins, Endicott's Sports Information Graduate Assistant

(Special thanks to Babson College Sports Information for making the resources available to include the Beavers' team archival data and program history reports.)

Salem St. Tops Endicott, 61-45
December 10, 2016 Salem St. Tops Endicott, 61-45