WELLAND, Ont. — Born and raised in Welland, Christopher Rao is heading back home.
On Thursday, the Niagara College Knights announced that they had found their next women’s basketball head coach, and Rao has been the one tabbed to help guide the team as they look to make a jump in the standings this season.
Rao will take over for former head coach Mike Beccaria, who retired after the 2018-2019 season
The name Rao may sound familiar to many around the basketball community in Welland and the surrounding area. Chris’ father, Mike Rao, is the Head Coach of the women’s basketball program for the Brock Badgers, and he just inked a three-year deal to remain the head coach of the program.
Growing up in Welland, Rao attended Notre Dame College School before heading to the East Coast to continue his education at Cape Breton University. While working towards his education degree, Rao got involved with the Cape Breton Capers men’s basketball program, where he served as an assistant coach from 2014-2017.
Upon graduation, Rao served as an assistant coach for one season with the Acadia Axemen before returning to his alma mater in 2018-19 to be the lead assistant coach.
On top of serving as an assistant coach in the AUS, Rao has been heavily involved with the game on a provincial level in Nova Scotia. Since 2017, he has been an assistant with both the under-14 and under-17 boys programs, and he is currently at the helm of the boys under-15 program.
While his coaching experience has been on the men’s side of things, Rao is confident that he’ll make the transition a smooth one.
“Coaching is coaching,” said Rao, in a release shared by Niagara College. “At the end of the day, it’s about connecting and working with individuals.”
“If you’re able to do that, success and positive culture will follow.”
Being so close to his father at Brock University, Rao hopes to form a father-son tandem in the Niagara region, one that will provide prospective student-athletes with the best possible experience.
“I’m extremely proud of my Dad and what he has done with the Brock women’s basketball program and we will continue to support each other as we have all along,” added Rao. “Being back home and near family is obviously very exciting.”
The Knights are coming off a year in which they finished 6th in the highly-competitive OCAA – West Division with a record of 11-9. At the 2019 OCAA Championships, the Knights brought home a Bronze Medal after their 99-55 win over the Durham Lords to close out the three-day event.
Niagara College will begin their quest for an OCAA Championship on Friday, October 18th on the road against the Lambton Lions. The Knights’ home opener falls on Friday, November 1st when they host the Sheridan Bruins.
– T. Bennett
Information from Niagara College contributed to this post.