SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Growing up, Eric Youncofski was coached by his older brother Greg. This week, the Youncofski brothers are getting a most unique experience together at the 2016-17 NCAA Tournament.
College basketball's biggest event has become a family affair for the Youncofskis. Eric is in his second season as a graduate assistant with the Rams after playing three seasons at URI as a walk-on. Greg is in his fourth season as the video coordinator with the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Earlier this season, the brothers crossed paths when Rhode Island and Cincinnati played each other during the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament, a 76-71 victory for the Rams. As cool as that was, now both teams are in Sacramento for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Even more incredible, both teams are staying in the same hotel.
"We figured it out a couple days ago," Eric Youncofski said. "Once Selection Sunday happened and we were going over everything, we figured out the details for both teams. It's been nice because we spent some good time together Wednesday night."
This time around, it is a more relaxing experience, as Rhode Island and Cincinnati will not face each other. Rhode Island faces Creighton Friday (TBS, 4:30 p.m. ET) as part of the Midwest region, while Cincinnati takes on Kansas State in the South region. The earliest Rhode Island could face the Bearcats would be the Final Four.
Eric and Greg have always been close. Greg – who spent three seasons as a student-manager at Kansas while earning his undergraduate degree there – coached the AAU team Eric played for while growing up in Middletown, N.J.
"It's crazy how life comes full circle. Growing up, he coached my AAU team, and he pushed me every single day," Eric Youncofski said. "Our goal is to coach together one day and be on the same sideline together. For now, this is just a really cool experience to have this all work out this way. For both of us to put in all the hard work and then to have a special experience like this, where we are both in the same place, it's just really cool to have it all work out."
The brothers will be joined by their extended family, which flew in to Sacramento Thursday night.
"Our family is all coming in and they will be here to share in this with us," Eric Youncofski said. "Knowing that this is going to happen, it's just a really rewarding feeling."