Tamika Dudley was fed up with the rumors, and so on Dec. 30, the Sidwell Friends girls’ basketball coach took to Twitter to quash the scuttlebutt.
“I have NO intention on leaving Sidwell after Kendall graduates,” Dudley wrote, referencing her daughter, a star sophomore guard for the Quakers. “I have been coaching for 15+ years and Kendall has only played for me for two of them.”
Those two years, though, have raised the profile of mother and daughter, who’ve helped lead the Sidwell Friends program to its greatest heights in more than a decade: The top-ranked Quakers have so far won conference and D.C. State Athletic Association championships, have beaten top teams from across the country and are the favorites to be the last team standing at GEICO Nationals in April.
There is no uncertainty attached to Kendall’s future: The 6-foot-1 wing is the No. 4 player in the country for the class of 2024, per ESPN, and will have her pick of Division I programs pining for her services.
But there is less of a clear path for elite high school coaches, some of whom do have dreams of reaching the next level. And then there are those like Tamika, who told Just Women’s Sports she has no intention of leaving Sidwell Friends anytime soon. The Naismith High School Girls’ Basketball Coach is proud of the program she’s helped build and feels at home in the community.
She knows that as long as Sidwell Friends’ success continues, though, those rumors will keep surfacing. Tamika said she’d heard this latest gossip came from local coaches trying to turn prospective players away from the Quakers.
“I don’t know if it’s a thing where people feel threatened,” Tamika said. “I thought it was best (if) something was said in the open.”
Tamika, to be fair, did get her coaching start at the college level, when she worked as an assistant at UNC-Wilmington after wrapping up her playing career at LIU-Brooklyn in 2004. She found the position to be emotionally draining, and derived more purpose from her job as an assistant at Potomac High School (Dumfries, Va.). She left the sideline after three seasons when she gave birth to Kendall and didn’t intend to return.
Then George Washington, her old coach at Woodbridge High School (Va.), called with an offer. He wanted Tamika, his former point guard, in the coaches’ room.
“I told her, ‘You need this as much as it needs you,’” said Washington.
Part of Washington’s pitch was that Tamika, a single mother, could bring Kendall along to practice and teach her the game. Indeed, some of Kendall’s earliest memories are in the Woodbridge gym, where Tamika, her players and even Washington introduced her to the intricacies of basketball. Washington often picked Kendall up from school or daycare to bring her to practice.
The trio became even closer through tragedy. Kendall was 4 when Washington suffered a cardiac event on the sideline and Tamika performed CPR on him before the paramedics arrived. Washington made a full recovery, but retired from coaching and handed the program off to Tamika. She led Woodbridge to a Class 6 state title in 2019 and earned USA Today Coach of the Year honors.
That’s when she caught the attention of the Sidwell Friends administration, and when she took the Quakers’ job, she brought Kendall with her. Even if mother and daughter already had a strong basketball foundation — Kendall often watched Woodbridge game tape with Tamika in the living room — it would be the first time they’d share a bench.
The relationship has borne fruit this season for the Quakers, who are also led by senior point guard Kiki Rice, a UCLA commit and arguably the top player in the country, and junior guard Jadyn Donovan, also a five-star recruit.
The group has elevated Sidwell to a status in the area normally reserved for teams in the more prestigious Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, like St. John’s, Paul IV and Bishop McNamara. Tamika isn’t surprised the success has led to some hearsay about her future, though she hypothesized there might be deeper reasons for the rumors.
“My first year coaching in this league, in general, there were situations with officials. And I was like, ‘Is it because I’m female and Black?’” said Tamika, whose mother is white and father is Black. “I hate to take it there. I normally don’t even go there.
“It’s definitely tougher for me to deal with male coaches than it is female coaches.”
Kendall, meanwhile, doesn’t pay much attention to the discourse surrounding Tamika’s future. But she does wish more people would recognize her mother’s success.
“You can’t stop people from talking,” Kendall said, “but you can always make an effort to show them what’s wrong about what they’re saying.”
Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.