A typical summer in our program usually involves one class per session in addition to our conditioning and basketball workouts. When you’re a freshman, you usually take another half-credit. A few guys take classes in the first session, and the whole team is in summer school for session two.
For me, this summer is different.
In the first summer session, I took two classes: a cognitive psych class to knock out a major requirement for my degree and a natural science course to fulfill a gen ed requirement. Right now, I’m taking two-and-a-half classes. I’m in a management course and a consumer psych course, plus another half-credit class.
Depending on what kind of workout we have, I start the day at 7 or 9 a.m. and finish around 6 p.m. During this time, it’s all school and basketball.
I really enjoy the college atmosphere. It’s exciting to learn real-world concepts from great professors and explore topics that interest me, but I didn’t make this commitment for the fun. I have a personal goal in mind.
The goal is to use this summer and the upcoming school year to get as close as possible to graduating from Duke University. I’ve been working on this plan with Kenny King, our academic advisor, since the end of my freshman year.
When Jahlil, Justise and Tyus – the guys I came in to Duke with – were preparing for the NBA Draft, I was meeting with Kenny to prepare for graduation. It seemed a little crazy at the time, but Kenny started talking about how we could utilize summer sessions to accelerate my graduation plans. Kenny felt confident that I could complete the majority of my requirements in three years, including summer sessions, so we mapped out a plan.
At the end of next spring, I plan to have completed approximately 90 percent of the requirements for my degree and walk at graduation. My goal has always been to graduate from Duke University.
Duke has been my dream school from the time I was in middle school. I wanted to attend Duke and play basketball, obviously. At that age, the academics weren’t exactly at the forefront of my thoughts.
Education has always been important to my family, especially my parents and grandma. My grandma was a teacher in Jacksonville. My parents both worked, sometimes two jobs, and my grandma kept working so I could attend private school for a challenging education.
When I was in middle school, I wasn’t allowed to play basketball until my schoolwork was done. In high school, I had a little more freedom, but my mom stayed on top of my grades and if she saw anything slip (even just a little bit), she’d be right there.
My parents always told me they didn’t have to worry about the NCAA eligibility rules because they had their own eligibility rules. It’s always been school before basketball in our house.
I had a definite feeling of pride last year when I was named an Academic All-American. Seeing that hard work in school pay off was a huge honor for me, and I think my parents may have been more proud of that award than seeing me named an All-American on the court.
Seeing the importance my family put on education instilled in me the desire to get my degree from Duke. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but I’m a believer that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
After last school year, I wanted to take a deep breath. I went through one of the most stressful seasons of my life in basketball and I wanted to finish the semester on a strong note in the classroom. I was relieved when the semester was over.
There wasn’t much time for that deep breath. The first summer session started a week later and I was right back into classes.
It seemed very reasonable when I was planning things out with Kenny to say that I could take two classes per session this summer. When you actually try to squeeze two classes into six weeks in addition to preparing for the upcoming basketball season, you quickly realize what that commitment really requires.
I have a specific plan in place, and there’s a very tangible goal at the end of the plan. I’ve been chipping away at my graduation requirements every semester and summer session. At the same time, it’s hard to look ahead because I still have a lot of classes to take and a lot of work to put in before I can actually reach my ultimate goal.
In order to stay on pace with my plan, these next two semesters are going to be maxed out from a class perspective. I’ll have to take five classes each semester, all of which will count toward my graduation requirements.
It’s going to be tough. It will require discipline and a dedication to time management. There are going to be sacrifices. Everything I do is going to be focused on my work at Duke, whether it’s academics or basketball.
I know I’m prepared for the challenge. I’ve set this goal and I’m prepared to go all out in pursuit of my degree. It goes back to what my parents told me when pushing me to get A’s instead of B’s: you can always be better.
I know my parents are proud of what I’ve accomplished on the court, but they’re also proud of what I’ve accomplished in the classroom. My mom always reminds me that school is bigger than basketball. What I do on the court is a small part of who I am; I also have school, faith, family and friends.
I promised my family I’d get my degree from Duke University. I know they’re proud of the work I’ve put in to get to this point, but I can’t wait to see the pride on their faces when I make good on that promise and walk across the stage as a Duke graduate.