Jauregui Adds Lear to Staff, Promotes Onikeku

Go C-USA! Erica Lear comes to Memphis after spending the last year as an assistant coach at Emory University.
Erica Lear comes to Memphis after spending the last year as an assistant coach at Emory University.

Jan. 28, 2013

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Head volleyball coach April Jauregui announced the hire of Erica Lean to the University of Memphis volleyball coaching staff, and the promotion of James Onikeku. Lean joins the staff after spending the last year as an assistant at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Onikeku was an assistant under Jauregui the last two seasons and has been promoted to associate head coach.

Lear has a history in the state of Tennessee, as she had a standout playing career at the University of Tennessee from 1998-2001. At the completion of her career, Lear was the Lady Vols’ all-time leader in assists with 5,069 career helpers. Over her four year career, Lear averaged 12.87 assists per set, which still stands as the all-time mark in Tennessee history. She was a three-time all-Southeastern Conference (SEC) conference performer, and recorded at least 1,000 dimes each of her four seasons at Tennessee.

Starting in 2003, Lear began coaching at the Emory volleyball camps and became the head coach of an A5 Volleyball Club team. She guided her team to a 16-2 mark and a regional final appearance. A season ago, Lear was hired as an assistant at Emory University, where she specialized in training the setters and middle hitters. The Eagles won the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship and advanced to the regional finals. Lear coached four all-conference players, including three All-Americans and the UAA Rookie of the Year at Emory.

“I am thrilled to add Erica Lear to our volleyball staff. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge from having played at a very high level at the University of Tennessee, and also having worked with renowned coach Jenny McDowell at Emory University for the past two seasons,” Jauregui said.

“She came highly-recommended from coaches I truly respect in the industry, and she thoroughly impressed me during the interview process.  Erica has taken a different path in her move to Division I coaching, but that makes it all the more exciting because she has used those experiences to develop her understanding of the world and her passion for coaching.”

“There is no doubt that Erica will bring a nice balance to our current staff as we set to embark on the challenge of entering the Big East Conference. Erica’s primary on-the-court responsibilities will include on the court training of our setters and our offensive system.”

“Erica is one of the finest young coaches in the country and will be a tremendous addition to the Memphis staff. She is as proven winner at every level as both a player and a coach. Her work ethic, passion and love of the game is contagious,” said Emory University head coach Jenny McDowell. “Erica is an exceptional teacher of the game and has the ability to take players to the next level, which is evident from the All-Americans that she has produced. She is a proven recruiter and will help April bring the finest athletes in the country to Memphis.”

Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said Lear was his first recruit when he started at Tennessee. “She was the one that got our program started because the University of Tennessee program was really at a low ebb when I came in.” Patrick said. “The thing that stood out about [Lean] was that she just won everywhere she went. Her club team was in the finals, or winning tournaments, and her high school team won the state championship in Columbus, Ind.”

“She was really highly-recruited, I think mostly because of her height. One of the hardest things to do is to get that turnaround jump started, and she did that with her work ethic and her personality as somebody who is really competitive and somebody who really had a lot of self-confidence. She has carried out those attributes throughout her career in club, and helping out with Emory’s team last year.”

“She understood the game and she understood why we were doing things, and I thought that she could become a coach. As she went through our program, I thought coaching would be a good calling for her if she chose it for sure,” Patrick added.

Onikeku, who has over 20 years of collegiate experience as a volleyball assistant and head coach, joined the Tiger staff in 2011 after a nine-year coaching stint at UT Chattanooga - his second at the institution. He was elevated to associate head coach prior to the 2005 campaign by former head coach Lisa Rhodes. He served as the Lady Mocs' primary recruiter and had practice, on-court and scouting responsibilities.

“It’s my pleasure to promote James Onikekeu (J.O.) to Associate Head Volleyball Coach.  J.O. has exhibited an unquestionable loyalty and outstanding work ethic in his time here at Memphis,” said Jauregui. “I trust him completely. He always has the best interests of the players, program and university at heart and is a vital asset for me as a head coach.”




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