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2006: OT Magazine – Halftime Playbook

June 24, 2008

Spring/Summer
2006 — Virtual… this nba star wants his peers to know how he earned
his degree in management studies after six years of online
correspondence.

By Jalen Rose

College – The number one reason why I decided to get my college degree
online is that I would become the first of my mother’s kids to have
one. As excited as I was to be part of the Fab Five at Michigan, it
still bugged me deep down inside that I went to school for three years
[leaving after his junior year] and still didn’t have my degree. I
needed maybe three or four semesters to actually graduate. To get those
credits, it took me six more years of work. It wasn’t an overnight
process.

The great thing about the NBA is that the players’ union has programs
set up to help you get your degree online. So the first thing you need
to do is contact a representative for player affairs. You don’t even
have to know what you want to study, but you have to be prepared to do
the work. Make school a priority and take it seriously, just like you
take your training seriously. You’ve truly been blessed to be able to
play professional sports. But your education will be what drives you
before, during and after that time.

How do you choose a school? I went with the University of Maryland in College Park for my online
correspondence because the agency that represents me is located in the
D.C. area. When researching schools, I wanted to enroll somewhere where
I could be hands-on during the offseason. A lot of times, I need to go
to D.C. to catch up on business, so with UM, I was able to visit my
professors while in the area. I needed a school that was convenient in
that respect. But, no matter which school you select, taking a course
online is like taking any other college course, it has a syllabus,
assignments, group work, papers due and deadlines to meet. I did all
the same things that my classmates did; I just wasn’t in class every
day and didn’t get to interact with them face-to-face. What makes it
cool is that eventually your classmates become interested in you. They
may even find out you play ball. Because of that, it kind of helps the
situation, because it’s not like you’re a total stranger.

As far as selecting courses go, find out what interests you. Part of
being an athlete is being able to manage your affairs financially.
That’s why I wanted to take classes in that area. That major [a BS in
Management Studies] made sense to me. Two careers that I want when I’m
done playing is to be an NBA executive and an NBA coach. Hopefully, I
can wear a lot of hats like Isiah Thomas or Doc Rivers, guys who are
retired, but are still part of the game. Shaquille O’Neal is trying to
wear all the hats he can, too [last year, O’Neal received his MBA from
the University of Phoenix, an accredited online school]. When Shaq’s
done playing, as many options as he has on the floor when he has a man
guarding him, he?s going to have plenty more off the court. Those are
the guys I look to for inspiration.

If you do go for your degree, you have to do it for the right reasons.
A lot of athletes don’t know that you won’t be taken as seriously in
the work force after your playing days are over if you don’t have a
degree. The world doesn’t care that you averaged 25 points over 10
years. It doesn’t work like that.

Believe in the opportunity to take your life to the next level through
continuing your education. Defy the naysayers the same way you do as an
athlete. Put the same time, energy and pride into saying, "I want to be
a college graduate" as you do in saying, "I want to be a great
athlete,"
and it will happen for you.

Five Steps to Getting Your Degree Online

1. Do the research
Web sites such as www.worldwidelearn.com are decent places to start,
but you still may need someone to help you navigate the wealth of
information out there. If you don’t want to go through an official
league program, try contacting Cristina Versari (cversari@sduis.edu,
858-254-0303) at the San Diego University for Integrative Studies.
Versari worked for the NBA for over a decade and helped more than 1,000
players get their college degrees. She is now a consultant and personal
coach, helping both current and former athletes from all sports succeed
in the world of continuing education.

2. Map out a game plan
When deciding on a school, don’t just throw a dart at the board. Decide
which situation would work best with your specific schedule and prior
education background. "We often coordinate with the athlete’s original
college, if they still have credits," says Versari. "But each person’s
needs are different. We can come up with a degree plan for anybody."

3. prepare to commit
According to Versari, all you need to get a degree online is "a laptop
and two to three hours of free time per day." But you do need the
motivation to see things through. "Being an athlete doesn’t
automatically make you a great student," warns Rose. "You have to put
the work in."

4. Use your skills
It may not always be obvious, but the skills developed as an athlete,
analyzing game tapes, devising strategies, working within a team, often
translate pretty well to the classroom. "I used my basketball
experience working with different egos to get everybody to work
together," Shaq has said about his online university experience.

5. Exercise diligence
It took Rose six years to get his degree. Alton Lister, the former
Golden State Warrior who is now head coach at a community college in
Phoenix, worked for 10 years to receive his. Former Sacramento King and
Chicago Bull Lawrence Funderburke is on the verge of getting his BA.
"Athletes with degrees are taken more seriously in the business
community," Funderburke tells OT. "But like anything else in life and
sports, you gotta want it."

reporting by Gabe Guarente