Why Nikki McGaffin Chose Arkansas
Nikki McGaffin is one of the top 2022 softball recruits in the country. The pitcher is on her way to Arkansas in the fall to play for the reigning SEC champions, but that achievement did not come easily for McGaffin.
She endured major spine surgery after her sophomore year to repair a herniated disc, and was unsure if she'd be able to return to the circle after that.
But return she did, and with a vengeance. She had a masterful high school career with 811 strikeouts and a myriad of personal awards, including the Colorado Gatorade Softball Player of the Year award.
Softball America spoke with McGaffin about her softball journey to date and the recruiting process that led her to Arkansas. Read SA's full interview with McGaffin below.
Softball America: Why did you choose to commit to Arkansas?
Nikki McGaffin: I have always dreamed of playing in the SEC, and when I met Coach Deifel and the staff, it was automatically a perfect fit. Fayetteville, and the culture around the sports in Arkansas, is unmatched. Coach D and Arkansas softball have a very bright future, and I am excited to be a part of it.
SA: How did playing high school and travel softball help you get recruited and make you a better player?
NM: I was fortunate enough to go to a big high school and play with a great team and coaches at Fossil Ridge High School. I also played for Dave King on the Triple Crown Colorado 18U Gold team. Traveling across the nation with my TC team prepared and allowed me to play in front of big college coaches. Fossil Ridge allowed me to be successful in-state and is responsible for giving me the space to be acknowledged as one of the most decorated athletes in Colorado. Both of these experiences made me the athlete I am today.
SA: When did you start pitching and why did you stick with it?
NM: I started pitching when I was eight years old. I taught myself how to pitch off of YouTube, and shortly after, I started playing softball for a competitive team. I was always a competitive soccer player, but my future in softball was a lot more promising. After choosing softball, my mind was set on being able to compete at the highest level possible.
SA: What are you looking forward to most at Arkansas as you continue your academic and athletic career?
NM: I am very excited to arrive on campus in the fall. I am very fortunate to play softball at the highest level, but also have support in the classroom and be able to get a great degree in sports management.
SA: Who is the most impactful person in your softball journey?
NM: The most impactful person on my softball journey would be Dave King. He has been my mentor and coach for the past three years and has changed the way I see the game. He pushed me from a good player to a great player, and is one of the main reasons I am fortunate enough to go to Arkansas.
SA: Do you have any tips for players who are going through the recruiting process?
NM: Recruiting is a very stressful process and takes a lot of time and different people to make it all work out. The biggest piece of advice I could give is to trust the process and have faith that the right coach will see you at the right time. Everyone has a perfect fit, and it just takes your skills and connections to find it.
SA: What did your recruiting process with Arkansas look like?
NM: Dave King got me in contact with Coach Deifel because he thought it would be a good fit. Getting noticed out of Colorado is difficult, but Dave helped me a lot. It was during Covid-19, so there wasn’t much activity, but we called and talked on the phone every other day until she got the chance to come watch me in person. I was talking to some other schools in the SEC at the time, but none were like Coach Deifel and Arkansas. After going on my official visit, I decided that I was going to be a Razorback.