Converse College Selects Ryan Saunders to Lead Inaugural Men’s Basketball Team
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Converse College Selects Ryan Saunders to Lead Inaugural Men’s Basketball Team

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Converse College has selected Ryan Saunders as the head coach for the Valkyries’ inaugural men’s basketball team. Saunders comes to Converse from Belmont Abbey College, where he currently serves as the associate head coach and has coached for the last five years. He began his career at Barry University.

During his time at Belmont Abbey, Coach Saunders helped lead the team to a national ranking as high as #20 in the NCAA Division II national rankings in 2019-2020. In 2020, the team finished in second place with a 21-10 record, was runner-up in the Conference Carolinas tournament championship and earned an at-large bid to the 2020 NCAA Tournament. He led the Belmont Abbey team to a turnaround record from two wins prior to his arrival to back-to-back twenty-win seasons in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. As an assistant coach at Barry University from 2007-2015, Saunders helped guide the men’s team to the NCAA Tournament three times and helped recruit a team that advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite 8 in 2016.

He recruited and coached one All-American selection, the Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, and the Conference Carolinas Defensive Player of the year as well as eight all-conference, six all-tournament and three all-regional selections during his five years at Belmont Abbey.

“Coach Saunders is known for his ability to recruit strong academic and high-character young men, create the right type of culture and build winning programs,” said Converse director of athletics Jenn Bell. “We are thrilled to have him join us here at Converse. Across Valkyries athletics, our Converse student-athletes and coaches are known to pursue excellence and strive to improve academically and athletically every day. Coach Saunders exemplifies these qualities and I look forward to seeing him lead our men’s basketball team and build relationships with faculty and staff, students, fans, recruits and our community members.”

“Across Valkyries athletics, our Converse student-athletes and coaches are known to pursue excellence and strive to improve academically and athletically every day.”

During his coaching career, Saunders has been active in organizing volunteer and community service activities for his teams, has rallied alumni through events and newsletters, and has organized fundraising events to benefit charities. He also has led basketball camps and clinics for youth in his local community.

“I am incredibly blessed to be appointed the first head coach in Converse men’s basketball history. Converse’s decision to welcome male undergraduate residential students and introduce men’s athletics creates a very exciting future and a unique opportunity to start from the ground up,” said Saunders. “The intrigue of doing that at a prestigious institution like Converse is a dream come true for me. I want to thank President Krista Newkirk, Director of Athletics Jenn Bell, and the rest of the search committee for giving me the opportunity to lead this program.”

He continues, “Over the course of my thirteen years as an assistant coach, I have been fortunate to learn from some great head coaches and work with many high-character student-athletes. As the head men’s basketball coach at Converse, I look forward to recruiting similar high-character young men and mentoring them as they pursue excellence on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.”

Saunders is a graduate of Barry University, where he was a three-year captain of their NCAA Division II men’s basketball team. As a student-athlete, he led the Barry team to its first-ever Sunshine State Conference regular season championship and its first two NCAA Division II Tournaments.

Saunders will begin recruitment for the inaugural men’s basketball team in August 2020, with the team commencing gameplay in winter 2021. Competitive scholarship opportunities will be available for athletes selected to play on the inaugural team. While recruitment will be led by Saunders, interested athletes may also reach out to valkyries@converse.edu with questions and to request consideration.

Converse is home to the only NCAA Division II athletic teams in Spartanburg and is a member of Conference Carolinas, whose membership is made up of private colleges and universities across the southeastern United States. The men’s teams currently planned at Converse for the 2021-2022 academic year include basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball. These men’s teams will be in addition to the thirteen NCAA Division II and IHSA women’s teams currently a part of Converse’s athletic team roster.

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