DAPHNE, Ala. – United States Sports Academy alumnus and University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP) men’s basketball associate head coach Drew Richards was recently recognized as one of the top assistant coaches in the country.

Richards was honored as one of the best assistant coaches in NCAA Division II by CoachStat.net, a website that uses analytical data to compile a comprehensive ranking of men’s basketball coaches in a variety of categories. CoachStat.net said the list, which featured 25 top Division II assistant coaches, was “balanced by a wide scope of basketball, administrative, community and other responsibilities. These coaches excel in the stat sheets, developing their players, meeting their lower level limitations and succeeding despite them.”

The website said Richards is a “record-breaking assistant who has enjoyed developing both preseason player of the year candidates and stat sheets alike in both the junior college (JUCO) and Division II spaces.” Known for his defensive mindset, Richards is described by the site as a coach who focuses on limiting opponent points each season.

Richards earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports management from the Academy in 2013. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Missouri State University, where he was a four-year letterman in basketball. He said fellow Academy alumnus and current Creighton University men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott encouraged him to further his education at the Academy. He earned his Academy degree while working as an assistant coach at the junior college level at Missouri State-West Plains.

“I chose to pursue a master’s degree at the Academy because of a recommendation from Greg McDermott,” Richards said. “The Academy prepared me for my career by touching on multiple avenues that I have come across in higher education. Had I attended a different university, I am not sure if they would be so understanding of a coach’s schedule.

“It also helped that the Academy was focused solely on sports and I was able to graduate in enough time to stay competitive in a tough job market.”

This season, UNCP won its second consecutive Peach Belt Conference regular season championship, finishing with a regular season record of 23-5. The team hopes to reach its third NCAA tournament in the last four seasons.

“My responsibilities as the associate head coach are very wide in scope,” Richards said. “My first and foremost job is to make sure the head coach’s job is as easy as possible. After that, I am involved in most aspects of the program, including coaching, scouting, coordinating recruiting, travel planning, academic monitoring, and scheduling. My favorite part of my job is getting to see individual players grow as people in their time at UNCP.

“So far my greatest professional accomplishment is knowing that I had an impact on student-athletes, even after they graduate, and seeing them follow through with their professional aspirations, whether on or off the court.”

“I also teach in the university’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation department.”

Richards is in his fourth season on the Braves’ coaching staff. He was promoted to associate head coach in March 2015.

A native of Rogersville, Mo., Richards played basketball at Logan-Rogersville High School before attending Missouri State University as a student-athlete. At Missouri State, Richards led the team in blocked shots in each of his last three years and he earned the Guy Thompson Award, given annually to the team’s most outstanding senior.

Richards also played one season of professional basketball in Germany, starting for the Erdgas Ehingen Steeples. He finished ninth in the league in blocks and 12th in rebounds during the 2008-09 season.

“I really appreciate the Academy keeping its alumni updated and following their successes,” Richards said. “Not all universities do that as well as the Academy.”

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.

The Academy is based in Daphne, Ala.  For more information, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.