Rising Coaches Elite provides aspiring coaches valuable networking, learning opportunities

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While it doesn’t receive the level of attention that areas such as recruiting and player development do when discussing college basketball during the summer, the art of networking can be vital for those who are looking to improve their professional standing within the game.

That’s a relatively easy process for the coaches, as the three five-day evaluation periods give them a chance to not only observe players but also communicate with each other. While that could be simply a matter of catching up with old acquaintances, there’s also the ability to exchange ideas on a number of topics.

But what about those support staffers, the graduate assistants, directors of basketball operations and video staffers do since they aren’t allowed to hit the road (representing a school) during this period? That’s where Rising Coaches Elite comes into play.

Created by former Clemson basketball staffers Adam Gordon (currently director of operations at Mississippi State), Andy Farrell (assistant at Longwood) and Trey Meyer (assistant at Miami University), Rising Coaches Elite will hold its fourth annual conference in Las Vegas beginning Tuesday.

To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

And the fourth edition will also include a Rising Athletic Directors Conference, an opportunity that wasn’t available the first three years.

“After all of the Rising Coaches conferences we’d sit down and ask all the attendees during an open panel discussion what they wanted to see and what could be done better,” said Farrell in a phone interview with NBC Sports.

“A lot of people mentioned, ‘what if an athletic director came to speak with us about what they expect from our position?’ So once [the founders] broke it down some more, we thought that since we’re doing this for the young coaches what if we could reach young aspiring athletic directors too?”

Also instrumental in the process of adding a conference for those who aspire to ultimately become athletic directors was Ben Rosenfeld, who is currently the director of sport administration for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). This would ultimately lead to the formation of Rising Athletic Directors, and it can only help those involved on both sides of the process.

Aspiring coaches get to learn not only from those are coaching, but they also get to learn from athletic administrators while networking with the people who could very well determine whether or not they’re hired for a job down the line.

This year’s group will get to hear from head coaches such as Andy Enfield (USC), Kerry Keating (Santa Clara) and Pat Skerry (Towson) in addition to multiple assistants and college administrators. There’s also the ability to interact with other success stories, with Farrell being one of the many who have experienced success in their careers since participating in Rising Coaches Elite.

In addition to the current group of staffers throughout the country there are others, whether it’s your team managers or walk-ons who see little playing time, who hope to begin their coaching journey by landing a support staff position in the near future.

According to Farrell, there are a couple things an aspiring coach needs to do in order to successfully make the transition.

“First and foremost they need to let someone, a mentor, know that they’re looking,” said Farrell. “You’ve got to let your mentors know that you’re looking, because once they know then they can start using their experience, knowledge and network.

“The other thing I would suggest for them to do is work camps. Find any and every way to get to know the people you’re working the camps with and the program you’re working the camp for. Because while that may not get you a job right away, those are the connections and networking opportunities that will take you infinitely farther.”

Farrell also noted the need to continue to learn, whether it’s about the Xs and Os of the game or other areas that programs need to take care of in order to be successful. And given the number of participants who have gone on to enjoy success in their careers, it’s become evident that Rising Coaches Elite has been a positive factor in this regard.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: