Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and Crittenden County native Sonja Tate, who has excelled as a player and coach on multiple levels, is returning to her roots to direct the Mid-South Community College Lady Greyhounds.
Tate, who played professionally in the U.S., France, Russia, Spain, succeeds interim coach Andy Stoglin as the leader of MSCC's women's basketball program.
"It is not often a college has the opportunity to hire both a homegrown talent and a former professional player, but we have done just that," said MSCC Athletic Director Chris Parker who coaches the men's team. "Her experience at the highest levels of women's basketball, both in the WNBA and overseas, has given her exposure to some of the top coaching in the game, and her love for our community has given her the motivation to return home."
"The timing could not have been better scripted as we merge with the Arkansas State University system this summer and have the opportunity to hire a coach within the ASU family. I believe Sonja will generate excitement in our community and will use her Division I experience from ASU to aggressively and effectively recruit our region."
"I am very excited about this opportunity to help build a program at Mid-South Community College," Tate said. "It's an opportunity to come back to where I was born and raised and help some of the young ladies of the region. It will also give me the chance to be closer to my mom and family, and that's important to me as well."
"My desire is to recruit quality student-athletes who can help us build and maintain a top-flight program. I have talked with Coach Stoglin, and I like the direction of the athletic program. The facilities are certainly first class, and I am looking forward to the challenge."
Tate joined Coach Brian Boyer at Arkansas State prior to the 2012-13 season and helped the Red Wolves compile a 61-38 record, appear in back-to-back Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship games, and make consecutive trips to the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
"I am excited for Sonja and her opportunity to take over her own program," Boyer said. "We have had great success during the past three years here at Arkansas State, and Sonja has been a big part of that."
"Sonja loves the game and has tremendous passion for the game, and I can't wait to follow the success that will come under her leadership at Mid-South Community College."
When he first hired Tate, Boyer said he expected her competitive fire to be a major asset as a coach.
"Sonja was not successful as a player because she was just better than everyone. She was successful because she was driven to be better than everyone," Boyer said. "What she has accomplished as a player speaks for itself, but I'm now convinced that she's ready to make a name for herself as a coach."
While a member of the ASU coaching staff, Tate served as the recruiting coordinator and helped the Red Wolves land two of the top signing classes in each of the last two seasons.
As an A-State player, Tate rose to the top of the university's record books in six statistical categories. With 2,312 points, she is the career scoring leader in both women's and men's basketball at Arkansas State. She also holds the single-season rebounding record with 327 boards and is the career steals leader with 402.
Tate is the only player in ASU history to record a quadruple double, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in an 86-59 victory at Mississippi Valley State Jan. 27, 1993. Later that season, she led A-State to a 67-54 win over SMU in the finals and earned MVP honors in the National Women's Invitation Tournament.
As a freshman, she earned Co-Newcomer of the Year honors in the American South Conference. She made the All-American South Conference team the following year and the All-Sun Belt Conference team as a junior and a senior. Prior to her senior season, she was named preseason first-team All-America by Dick Vitale's Basketball Magazine and following the season was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and a Kodak All-American.
Tate also earned All-American honors as a track and field athlete at ASU and remains in the top-10 in Red Wolves' history in six events.
After completing her college basketball career in spring 1993, Tate played basketball in Europe but eventually returned to Jonesboro to finish her bachelor's degree (B.S.E. in Physical Education and Health). She also took advantage of her remaining track eligibility to earn additional athletic accolades.
Tate later tried out for the fledgling American Basketball League and earned a roster spot with the Columbus Quest which won championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98. Columbus had jumped to an 11-3 conference lead in 1998 when the league folded.
Drafted by the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, Tate played three more years in the U.S. before pursuing professional playing opportunities abroad. A three-year starter for the Lynx, she led the team in minutes played, assists and steals.
When her playing career ended, Tate returned to Jonesboro to earn a master's degree in education degree with an eye toward coaching. She relocated to North Carolina and worked at Ardrey Kell High School and William A. Hough High School in the Charlotte area. At Hough, Tate helped establish the girls' basketball program and directed the Lady Huskies to 37 wins and a pair of trips to the state tournament. Tate also coached track.
At the end of the 2012 season, she began looking for a college job, and when she heard about an opening at ASU, she jumped at the opportunity.
As a student at West Memphis High School, Tate helped the Lady Blue Devils on multiple fronts.
"Sonja Tate is by far the best female athlete I ever saw on any level," said Billy Woods, former Evening Times sports editor who works for the school now. "She was such a freakish talent at West Memphis High School that former track and field coach Joe Nooner once said of her, 'She may be the best athlete that's ever come from our school, boy or girl.'"
"Looking back at all Tate accomplished at WMHS, Arkansas State University, and in professional basketball, her feats read like a Michael Jordan bio," Woods said. "In my opinion MSCC hit the ball out of the park on this one."