UIC head men’s basketball coach Luke Yaklich rounded out his coaching staff on Tuesday as he announced the hiring of C.J. Rivers as an assistant coach.
“I am really excited to have C.J. Rivers join our coaching staff at UIC,” said Yaklich. “The first thing that everyone spoke about when describing C.J. was his character, work ethic and passion for the game of basketball. He is someone that understands the Missouri Valley Conference and has played a pivotal role in the success of the programs he’s served the last four years. CJ will be an incredible mentor for all of our players, but in particular the guards in our program as he played the position and has mentored players at Loyola, Colorado State and Drake. I am really looking forward to working with C.J. and helping him grow as a coach in our great profession.”
Rivers joins the Flames after spending the 2020-21 season at Loyola as the team’s video coordinator. In his lone season with the Ramblers, Rivers helped the program to a 25-8 record, a second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference championship and a second-straight berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to his time in Rogers Park, Rivers spent two seasons on the bench at Colorado State as a graduate assistant. The Rams posted back-to-back 20-win seasons during Rivers’ time in Fort Collins, including a berth in the National Invitational Tournament in 2020-21.
“I am as excited as ever to get to work here at UIC alongside Coach Yaklich and his staff,” said Rivers. “I’m looking forward to adding value to this program in a variety of ways, especially given my playing and coaching experience as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to be able to impact and pour into these young men and off the court while being able to help lead such a passionate and united group.”
Before entering the coaching ranks, Rivers spent one season playing professionally for the Sturt Sabres of the Premier League NBL 1 in Australia. During his season down under, Rivers led the Sabres in assists and steals while helping coach the youth club’s U14 team and served as a mentor to Basketball Australia members.
No stranger to the MVC, Rivers played at Drake from 2014-18, earning MVC Scholar-Athlete honors during his time with the Bulldogs. A four-year starter and three-year captain, Rivers appeared in 111 games during his career with the Bulldogs and averaged 4.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He helped guide the Bulldogs to their first postseason appearance in 10 years and was the only MVC player to lead their team in rebounds, assists and steals in 2017-18.
A native of Cahokia, Ill., Rivers led Cahokia High School to the Class 3A IHSA Super Sectional during his senior season, taking home Class 3A honorable mention all-state honors one year after leading his squad to the state championships and a 33-4 record as a junior.
Rivers graduated from Drake in 2018 with a degree in broadcast news journalism before earning a masters degree in human resource studies from Colorado State in 2021.
What They’re Saying About CJ Rivers:
“I’m really excited for CJ to get this opportunity. The way he connected his teams as a player is the same way he goes about his coaching. He is as good with relationships and doing whatever it takes to win as anyone I’ve ever been around. He is more than ready to make the jump to assistant coach and I’m excited to follow his journey with Coach Yaklich at UIC!” – Drew Valentine, Loyola head men’s basketball coach
“CJ is a tremendous person and a very talented young coach. He has great feel for the game and is a natural connector with people. He will be an outstanding addition to UIC.” – Niko Medved, Colorado State head men’s basketball coach
“CJ Rivers played for us at Drake and is a consummate team-first person and coach. Smart, high character, and a hard worker! UIC is getting one of the best young upcoming coaches in the country.” – Ray Giacoletti, former Drake head men’s basketball coach