Skyhawk Women's Basketball | David Russell - Assistant Coach
David Russell enters his eighth season as a part-time assistant with the UT Martin women's basketball team after being recognized as one of the best high school coaches in Tennessee history.
While an assistant at UT Martin, the Skyhawks have won four Ohio Valley Conference regular season championships, four OVC Women’s Basketball Championships and appeared in a string of six consecutive postseasons appearances - including four NCAA Tournaments and two WNIT berths.
Known in the coaching community as a defensive guru, Russell put his defensive stamp on a record-setting Skyhawk squad with outscored its opponents by 12.3 points per game, including a remarkable +22.0 scoring margin against OVC opponents in 2013-14. The Skyhawks pressure defense forced their opponents into 643 turnovers while tallying 330 steals, nearly doubling the work of their opponents.
Primarily working with the Skyhawk forwards, Russell has been integral in the advancement of Skyhawks Ashton Feldhaus, Haley Howard, Ashia Jones and Rickiesha Bryant.
Forced to sit out for two years due to NCAA transfer rules and a season-ending injury, Feldhaus used the 2016-17 campaign to work herself back into form. After a slow start to the season, Feldhaus finished the year averaging 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. She was no stranger to OVC awards, earning All-OVC second team honors after being named OVC Newcomer of the Week on six occasions along with one OVC Player of the Week nod. As a whole, Feldhaus tallied 18 games in double figures – including 10 games with 15 points or more while leading the team in scoring four times.
After a slow start to her Skyhawk career, Howard burst onto the scene during her senior campaign to become a major force not only at UT Martin, but within the OVC. After averaging just 3.4 points per game as a junior, Howard scored in double figures in 24 games while tallying 20 points or more on nine occasions en route to All-OVC first team honors following the 2015-16 season. Posting an 90 percent clip from the free throw stripe, Howard ranked second in the conference in free throw percentage while sitting fourth in three-point field goals made per game (2.3), seventh in scoring (14.9 ppg) and ninth in field goal percentage (46.9).
In her brief two-year stint with the Skyhawks, Jones soared up the program’s all-time scoring leaderboard. After an impressive freshman season which saw Jones earn Freshman of the Year, All-OVC second team and All-Newcomer honors, she took her game to another level in her sophomore campaign.
Jones became the program’s second Associated Press All-American while also bringing home OVC Female Athlete of the Year, OVC Player of the Year, TSWA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and National Mid-Major Player of the Year honors after averaging 23.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. She ranked fourth in the nation is scoring while setting new single-season records in points (772), field goals made (287) and 30-plus point games (10). She also became the third fastest player in school history to reach the 1,000 point plateau after accomplishing the feat in her 57th appearance.
Bryant also took a big leap under the tutelage of Russell in 2012-13. She set a UT Martin single-season record for highest field goal percentage (.642), converting 129 of her 201 attempts. She cracked double-figures in the scoring column on 18 different occasions – including 17 times in the final 23 games of her senior season. She also led the OVC and set a single-season school record for blocks, swatting away 85 shot attempts. Included in the record, she turned away at least four blocks in 11 different games, along with an eight block performance at Murray State with tied a UT Martin single-game record with had stood since 1986.
Russell, who built his legacy in the prep ranks at Bradford and Gibson County, captured six state championships and won more than 950 games during his illustrious 35 year prep career. He took his teams to the state tournament an astounding 17 times.
Russell, began his high school coaching career at Medina. He then spent 21 seasons at Bradford and 11 at Gibson County, winning the last of his state titles in his final game as the Lady Pioneers’ skipper.
He joined McMillan on the UTM bench before the 2010-11 season. He also served as an assistant coach to McMillan in 2009 when McMillan led the Lady Pioneers to their first Class AA state title and an undefeated 37-0 record.
Russell is a member of the TSSAA Hall of Fame following his 2013 induction.