Lopes’ point guard, May GCU graduate named NCBBA Assistant Director of Basketball Operations
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
In a world where mission statements are paramount and widespread, Zac Ramirez’s personal mission statement has changed every month over the past semester.
In February, the mission was to lead the Grand Canyon University Club Basketball Purple team to its first-ever conference title. Done.
March? Lead the Lopes to a region title. Close.
April’s was a big one: walk across the stage to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management at GCU Arena. Accomplished!
May and June? Influence kids as a director at a Christian summer camp in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
His mission statement will become even grander after that.
In July, Ramirez will begin the next chapter of his life as the assistant director of basketball operations for the National Club Basketball Association, which runs the leagues in which GCU Club Basketball’s men’s and women’s teams compete. To do so, Ramirez will jump in his car when the camp concludes on Friday, July 13, and begin the 35-hour journey from Idaho to Pittsburgh to be in the NCBBA office by that Tuesday.
Talk about uncharted territory.
“I’ve never been farther than Ohio (for last year’s NIRSA National Championships),” said Ramirez, a Fresno, California native. “I’m excited to see the East Coast. Having some resources within the organization has helped me get a good idea of what to expect, and I’ve talked to a few friends who have made the move from west to east.”
Ramirez isn’t being hired because of his on-the-court stat lines, though. He’s been on the NCBBA radar for the past year. As he studied during the day and played basketball at night, Ramirez also spent the past year volunteering as the Conference Coordinator for the NCBBA Southern Pacific Region, which oversees GCU’s conference and two others. He treated the volunteer position as anything but a side job.
“He’s full of responsible communication,” NCBBA President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy Sanderson said. “When I send him an email, he doesn’t wait three days. He’s on top of everything. That communication is clutch, and his ability to communicate with me and with the clubs he oversaw was fantastic.”
“Being able to work alongside Sandy, and getting to know each other’s styles was important,” Ramirez said. “He was flexible, and he realizes that I want to put my best foot forward. Getting to establish that relationship, and that he knows I’ll bring it every day to help, made it a good fit overall.”
In fact, Ramirez would’ve been Pittsburgh-bound several months ago, if not for a small complication.
“We interviewed him back in January for a position,” Sanderson said. “The only reason he didn’t get it was because he was still in school. We loved him in the interview so much that when the next opening came up, he was our guy.”
So how does someone like Ramirez go from being a local club sports participant to a national club sports executive? Ramirez pointed to the emphasis that GCU Club Sports places on student leadership, and the inspiration that he drew from this past year’s GCU Club Sports Student Leadership Class, which was developed and taught by GCU Club Sports Assistant Director Mark Nelson.
“Everyone at GCU has been phenomenal in putting me in positions to succeed,” Ramirez said. “Club sports does a great job with the leadership program, and I’m so thankful to Coach Nelson for putting me in position for the internship in the first place. The time everyone has invested in me made this transition process so easy. I feel so incredibly blessed for everything that has come my way.”
The leadership program gave GCU Club Sports’ 29 teams a chance to offer scholarships to their top academic students. Beyond giving them a break on tuition, it included a monthly leadership class during the academic year. The class gave students a chance to hear about leadership principles from national motivational speakers and GCU coaches and staffers, how other team leaders were handling leadership strategies and conflicts within their teams and life concepts for the future.
“We are extremely fortunate at GCU that there is an emphasis on the development of leaders,” Nelson said. “Club sports gives us a great avenue to do that through sport. Zac being hired with CollClubSports (NCBBA’s parent company) is the epitome of what this leadership program and class is about.”
“I have always believed that club sports would be a conduit for professional opportunities,” GCU Club Sports Director Dan Nichols said. “Zac made it happen by doing an outstanding job in an administrative role. Sandy spotted his talent, and for that, we thank him.”
Sanderson has seen the effects of the leadership program on Ramirez, and what those like Ramirez glean from seeing club sports from all angles to make them attractive hires.
“They understand that club sports is different than varsity sports,” Sanderson said. “Varsity athletes are used to having their laundry done for them. There was a professional adult taking care of them. These people within our leagues are far more in-tune.”
So the new life adjustments begin in two months for the newly minted GCU grad. Ramirez and Sanderson, who said “I wish I could get him here tomorrow,” are excited about Ramirez’s impending arrival. Ramirez leaves GCU hopeful that he can adjust to his new job — and climate — quickly, and that others in the program can follow the trail he is about to blaze.
“The opportunity itself is such a blessing, and I certainly didn’t see this opportunity happening going into my senior year,” Ramirez said. “So find the time. It could be difficult, but the opportunities themselves will come if you put the work in for them.”