Hinds Community College head men’s basketball coach Yusef Fitzgerald has been selected to participate in the inaugural TopConnect NJCAA symposium set for Oct. 8 and 9. The inaugural class has 30 head men’s basketball coaches and 11 head women’s basketball coaches participating in this prestigious event.
“This is a blessing,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “My mission as a coach has always been to help as many kids as I possibly can because I was once one of those kids who needed help, guidance and a mentor. Being selected to participate in this event provides me with incredible platform to reach even more kids who are in the same shoes I was once in.”
TopConnect (formerly Villa 7) originated in 2003 by Dr. Richard Sander, then the athletic director at Virginia Commonwealth University. The program identifies the top basketball coaches in the country and connects them with midmajor athletic directors providing tremendous networking opportunities for both parties. The three-word mantra of “Connect Prepare Lead.” identifies the purpose of TopConnect.
“This is also a testament to what we’re trying to do at Hinds Community College and within our basketball program,” Fitzgerald said. “This is not just about the X’s and O’s of basketball. It shows what we’re trying to do is different, better and purposeful. We are providing kids an institution of higher character. I also want to express my appreciation, because none of this would be possible without the support from everyone at Hinds and within our community.”
The presenters for the inaugural TopConnect NJCAA include former junior college coaches Buzz Williams (formally Navarro College, now Texas A&M), Steve Forbes (formally Northwest Florida State College, now Wake Forest), Brian “Penny” Collins (formally Columbia State CC, now Tennessee State), Jay Ladner (formally Jones County JC, now Southern Miss), Dr. Brittney Ezell (formally Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, now East Tennessee State), Chris Jans (formally Chipola College, now New Mexico State), Keitha Adams (formally Independence CC, now Wichita State), Ryan Ridder (formally Daytona State College, now Bethune-Cookman) and Chanda Rigby (formally Pensacola State College, now Troy). In addition to the former junior college coaches speaking, a panel of Division 1 AD’s will discuss their expectations of a coaching staff, and a panel of current Division 1 assistant coaches will share their thoughts on their transition from Junior College to their current roles.
In total, three panels of current Division 1 head coaches will speak of their experiences on maintaining success once hired at the Division 1 level, making the jump to D1 from junior college and overall career development. Also, NJCAA President and CEO Dr. Chris Parker and Brandon Goble, CEO of JUCOAdvocate, will hold a conversation on breaking the stigma of junior college.
Since the inception of TopConnect, the program has produced numerous Division 1 head coaches including Anthony Grant (Dayton), Buzz Williams (Texas A&M), Shaka Smart (Texas), Steve Forbes (Wake Forest), and recently Greg Gary (Mercer), Brett Nelson (Holy Cross) and Bryan Mullins (Southern Illinois).
TopConnect works in conjunction with East Tennessee State University’s Doctoral Program in Global Sport Leadership and is a subsidiary of Connected Media, LLC.