Kelly Names Abdur-Rahim to Lead South Florida Men’s Basketball Program
NABC District 3 and ASUN Coach of the Year led Kennesaw State to conference regular season and tournament titles and the program’s first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament berth
TAMPA, March 29, 2023 – University of South Florida Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Kelly announced today the appointment of Amir Abdur-Rahim as the 11th head coach in Bulls men’s basketball history. Abdur-Rahim led Kennesaw State to a 26-9 record, ASUN Conference regular season and tournament titles and the program’s first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament berth in 2022-23.
“Everything that we were looking for in a leader for our men’s basketball program, we found in Amir,” Kelly said. “He is a man of high character who is a proven recruiter, program-builder, and winner that creates unparalleled student-athlete experiences. In our conversations, it became clear that he has a vision for USF Basketball and his enthusiasm and tenacity will rally Bulls Nation around our men’s basketball program. I welcome Amir, his wife, Arianne, and their children, Laila, Lana and Ayden to Team USF.”
In four seasons at Kennesaw State (2019-23), Abdur-Rahim oversaw progressive growth in the Owls program, doubling the program’s wins every season, before culminating in KSU’s first winning record as an NCAA Division I program and first ASUN conference titles (regular season and tournament) in 2022-23. The former NCAA Division II power transitioned to Division I in men’s basketball in 2005-06 and had peaked at a 14-18 mark in 2017-18 before Abdur-Rahim took over the program.
The Marietta, Ga. native, led the Owls, picked to finish eighth in the ASUN, to a 15-3 conference record in 2022-23 to claim the ASUN regular season crown. KSU’s 15 league wins were five more than the program’s previous record of 10, while the Owls tied for fourth in the nation with 10 road wins (10-6), four more than the 2016-17 team’s program-record road mark of 6-13.
The Owls went on to post three wins in the conference tournament, downing Liberty (67-66) in the final to earn the tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament, the program’s first-ever. KSU finished with a school-record 26-9 mark, scoring 75.0 points per game, to nearly double the program’s previous high wins mark in Division I and post their first winning season in Division I. The Owls set a record as the fastest team to ever reach the NCAA Tournament after a one-win campaign, taking just three seasons. The 14th-seeded Owls took No. 3-seed Xavier to the limit in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, nearly pulling off the first-round upset in what was a one-point game in the final seconds before eventually falling 72-67.
Star guard Chris Youngblood was named a first-team All-Conference and All-District selection and became the first KSU player to be named Georgia Men’s Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Meanwhile, guard Terrell Burden earned second-team All-Conference and All-District honors, marking the first time in program history the Owls received district accolades of any kind. Further, Brandon Stroud was named the ASUN Defensive Player of the Year.
Abdur-Rahim earned ASUN Coach of the Year and NABC District 3 Coach of the Year honors and was named the Georgia Men’s College Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. He was also a finalist for the Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year award. He finished his KSU tenure with a 45-74 record in four seasons, going 39-27 the last two years, doubling his win total every season on campus before culminating with a school-record 26 wins. His 2021-22 team went 13-18 overall, which equaled KSU’s second-best record in Division I and finished one game behind the previous all-time season win record at the Division I level. KSU’s impressive showing against one of the toughest schedules in the nation led to what was then the school’s highest-ever finish in both the KenPom (223) and NET (224) rankings. They would eclipse that in 2022-23, moving to 123 (KenPom) and 115 (NET), respectively.
Abdur-Rahim came to KSU with a proven track record of winning as a player and a coach with 13 years of experience developing and recruiting talented athletes out of the south. One of his first moves at KSU was to bring in standout freshmen Terrell Burden and Armani Harris who made an immediate impact during the 2019-20 campaign. He followed that with one of the top recruiting classes in KSU history. The Owls secured three of Georgia’s top-25 recruits in three-star athletes Chris Youngblood, Brandon Stroud and Kasen Jennings in the fall of 2019, giving KSU the top class in the ASUN and the 61st-ranked class in the nation Abdur-Rahim spent one year as an assistant coach at the University of Georgia (2018-19) under head coach Tom Crean. One of the lead recruiters for UGA, he helped the Bulldogs secure a top-10 recruiting class and was pivotal in signing Anthony Edwards, who was selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA Draft He also had stints at Texas A&M (2014-18) and Murray State (2006-07 & 2008-11), where he helped develop two NBA Draft picks in Robert Williams III from TAMU and Isaiah Canaan out of MSU. In four years as an assistant at Texas A&M, he helped lead the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament bids, including two Sweet 16 appearances in 2016 and 2018. He also helped orchestrate three 20-win seasons while at TAMU, helping the Aggies to a school record 28 wins in 2016, which included a share of the SEC regular-season title, the first for the program in 30 years. Before moving to College Station, Abdur-Rahim served as an assistant coach at the College of Charleston (2012-14) before being promoted to associate head coach for the 2013-14 campaign. The Cougars recorded an overall record of 38-29 during his two seasons, earning a 2013 CBI bid. Abdur-Rahim also spent a year at Georgia Tech (2007-08) as director of player development. While earning his master’s degree in organizational communication, Abdur-Rahim spent two years as a graduate assistant at Murray State before being promoted to assistant coach from 2008-11. During Abdur-Rahim’s tenure at Murray State, the Racers compiled a 73-26 overall record, earning two OVC Regular Season Championships and a 2010 OVC Tournament title. The Racers reached the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, upsetting No. 4 seed Vanderbilt in the opening round before falling to eventual runner-up Butler. A graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Abdur-Rahim was a three-time All-Southland Conference guard for the Lions, finishing his career ranked seventh in the record books for points scored and second for three-pointers made and steals. As a freshman at Garden City (Kansas) Community College, he ranked No. 24 nationally in scoring, averaging 19.1 points per game. Married to Arianne Buchanan, he and his wife have two daughters, Laila and Lana, and a son, Ayden. Abdur-Rahim is one of 13 children born to Deborah Hester and William Abdur-Rahim and one of six brothers to play college basketball. His older brother, Shareef, was a 13-year NBA veteran and is now the President of the NBA’s G-League.
About USF Athletics
USF Athletics currently sponsors 19 varsity men’s and women’s teams that compete in 11 different sports, 18 at the NCAA Division I level in the American Athletic Conference, which will expand to 21 teams with the recently announced additions of women’s lacrosse (2024-25) and women’s beach volleyball. The Bulls’ athletic program began in 1965 and is in its 57th season in 2022-23. Nearly 450 student-athletes train and compete in the athletic district located on the east end of the campus in Tampa, Fla. The Bulls have claimed 26 American Athletic Conference team titles since joining the conference in 2013, including seven trophies in the 2021 calendar year, and own 140 conference titles claimed in 15 sports in department history, led by 20 each for men’s tennis and men’s soccer. USF has claimed 74 men’s conference championships and 64 women’s titles, led by 14 in women’s tennis and 12 in volleyball. The Bulls have posted a combined annual grade-point average over 3.0 for more than eight straight years and have posted a program record of 16 straight semesters with a combined GPA over 3.0 as of the fall of 2022. USF has had over 500 student-athletes earn their degree since 2016-17.
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