SCOOBA — East Mississippi Community College's Sharon Thompson and Billy Begley have been selected to participate in the inaugural TopConnect NJCAA symposium for head men's and women's basketball coaches slated for Oct. 8-9.
Identified by the TopConnect NJCAA advisory team as top candidates nationally, EMCC's Thompson and Begley, both Mississippi State University alumni and former Bulldog basketball players, are one of only four head coaching tandems from the same community college to be selected for the honor. The other two-year colleges jointly represented are Shelton State (AL), Eastern Florida State and Tallahassee (FL).
This year's inaugural class of 41 TopConnect NJCAA attendees is comprised of 30 head men's basketball coaches and 11 head women's basketball coaches. Men's coaches Bryan Bender of Southwest Mississippi Community College and Yusef Fitzgerald from Hinds are the other coaches representing the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC).
Entering her 20th year overall among East Mississippi's athletic staff and 16th season as head women's coach, Thompson jointly serves as the college's director of athletics as well as continuing her role as the Lady Lions' head basketball coach. In guiding the EMCC women to their first conference championship since 1983-84 with last year's 24-3 overall record, Thompson was named 2019-20 MACJC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year and also received the Agent of Change Award in Sports from the Columbus-based African-American Leadership Caucus for her dedication and commitment to excellence.
Set to begin his sixth season as EMCC's head men's basketball coach, Begley owns a career record of 75-51 (.595) with the Lions, including a combined 35-17 (.673) mark over the past two seasons with back-to-back postseason appearances. Two years ago, Begley's 19-8 EMCC squad enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in program history by capturing the school's first conference championship in men's basketball since the 1930s along with winning the Lions' first MACJC North Division regular-season title in six years with a 10-2 division mark.
The presenters for the inaugural TopConnect NJCAA include former junior college coaches Buzz Williams (now at Texas A&M), Steve Forbes (Wake Forest), Brian "Penny" Collins (Tennessee State), Jay Ladner (Southern Miss), Dr. Brittney Ezell (East Tennessee State), Chris Jans (New Mexico State), Keitha Adams (Wichita State), Ryan Ridder (Bethune-Cookman) and Chanda Rigby (Troy). In addition to the former junior college coaches speaking, a panel of NCAA Division I athletic directors will discuss their expectations of a coaching staff, and a panel of current Division I assistant coaches will share their thoughts on transitioning from junior college to their current roles.
Having originated in 2003 by then VCU Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander, TopConnect (formerly Villa 7) identifies the top basketball assistant coaches in the country and connects them with mid-major athletic directors to provide tremendous networking opportunities for both parties. The three-word mantra of "Connect. Prepare. Lead." identifies the purpose of TopConnect.
Following the recent success of TopConnect Basketball 2020, Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO, and Dr. Sander began to develop a program for the head men's and women's basketball coaches of the NJCAA.
Since the inception of Villa 7 (now TopConnect), the program has produced numerous NCAA Division I head basketball coaches, including Anthony Grant (Dayton), Buzz Williams (Texas A&M), Shaka Smart (Texas) and Steve Forbes (Wake Forest).
TopConnect works in conjunction with East Tennessee State University's Doctoral Program in Global Sport Leadership and is a subsidiary of Connected Media, LLC.
By: David Rosinski | Sports Information Director
East Mississippi Community College