Students score big with Final Four experience

Working in guest services for the Final Four was the latest in a long list of accomplishments for GCU sports and entertainment management major Shelby Link.

Shay Milshteen played basketball in his native Israel and now plays for a Grand Canyon University club team.

But Milshteen, a sophomore sports management major, did not know about the various men’s Final Four events earlier this April at GCU and around the Valley until Colangelo College of Business professor Neda Barrie informed him and encouraged him to volunteer to work.

Milshteen worked four events and gained valuable experience that will help him in his ultimate goal of becoming a basketball executive.

“In the end, it’s about the people,” Milshteen said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. You connect with everyone, you can talk about anything. That’s what’s great about it. You always learn new things and share new things you learned. That’s what I like about those events.”

GCU student Oscar Hogan assisted fans at the men's Final Four.

Milshteen was one of several GCU students who gained immense experience working in various roles for several events for the Final Four.

“I love how the GCU campus was so involved,” said Joseph Missurelli, a junior business administration major who worked five events, including working in guest services on the club level for semifinals and finals at State Farm Arena.

“GCU was able to connect by hosting events, and it was impressive how the NCAA (the governing body) trusted GCU for these events with students working and volunteering.”

Missurelli worked the 2023 Super Bowl at State Farm and at the 2023 World Series at Chase Field. But the Final Four stood out to him because of the high passion of the fans who attended.

“One of the biggest things I realized was how (the Final Four) impacts the entire city,” Missurelli said. “It takes an entire city to hold a Final Four. There’s so much to it.”

Milshteen and Missurelli handled multiple roles, from assisting media with credentials and equipment, to ensuring dignitaries were in their assigned places on time. They assisted in duties for the State Farm College Slam Dunk, 3-Point Championships and Celebrity Slam Jam – all at Global Credit Union Arena.

The Final Four marked another signature event for Shelby Link, a sports and entertainment management major with a minor in sports psychology.

Sports and entertainment management junior Madison McClelland served as a Final Four ambassador.

Link worked the last two Super Bowls (receiving lodging for a week before the 2023 game in Las Vegas), served an internship last summer at Walt Disney World in Florida, worked at Camelback Ranch in spring 2023 before interning this last spring with the Oakland Athletics at their Mesa facility.

Kanoa McLaren assisted fans with their seats at State Farm Stadium.

Link relished the challenge of working in guest services for the Final Four semifinals and finals, assisting club level customers with ticket relocation, and complying with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodations.

One of the biggest challenges was helping fans transition during the two semifinal games.

“Oh, I was busy from the start of the first game to the end (of the second),” Link said. “We had 75,000 people all day Saturday, but the call came at once (for Monday’s championship game).”

Link observed the unique atmosphere for Monday’s title game between the University of Connecticut and Purdue.

“The atmosphere and energy are something that you are not able to re-create,” Link said. “It’s cool to see the (combined) support of academics, school and sports.”

And the experience of answering the questions and addressing the demands of emotional fans will serve Link well in the future.

Milshteen believes the Final Four experience will enhance his pursuit of a career in basketball. He lived in Israel for the first 17 years of his life before enrolling at GCU.

Milshteen was thrilled to meet GCU President Brian Mueller and had a surprise encounter with Mano Watsa, one of his former basketball coaches, at the annual Keys to Life breakfast presented by Athletes in Action at the Phoenix Convention Center. He also met a coach from Ukraine and spoke to him in Russian for 20 minutes.

Sophomore Marissa Dennis worked the Final Four Fan Fest.

But a discussion with Jerry Colangelo, a legendary sports and business executive after whom the business college is named, will resonate for years.

Milshteen learned that Colangelo knew Tal Brody, who left the University of Illinois (where he replaced a graduating Colangelo on the basketball team) to become one of Israel’s greatest players and a goodwill ambassador for the country.

“And (Colangelo) said he meets him once a year,” Milshteen said. “For me, hearing those names, those are people I grew up watching and learning about. So when they mention them in a conversation with me, it’s already an honor.”

Colangelo received a lifetime achievement award at the breakfast, and Milshteen hopes to gain experience and wisdom as he embarks on a full-time basketball journey.

“I hope to play overseas again, but it’s all about experiences,” Milshteen said. “By the time I’m 60 and have a big belly, I want to tell stories to my grandkids.

“In the end, you travel and learn. In the end, it’s all about stories. We tell different stories, and in the end, you want to tell the most unique and best stories and feel you did a lot with your life.”

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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