A successful Division I student-athlete balances a full load of classes, strenuous practices, tutoring and study tables, plenty of travel, and a plethora of rules and academic expectations.
For the vast majority, playing professionally isn’t going to happen. That’s why the educational component of being a student-athlete is so important.
Recently two former Lobos who did have professional careers – Kenny Thomas and J.R. Giddens – returned to the classroom to get their degrees.
In December, more than two decades after he led the Lobos to a 71-3 record in The Pit, Thomas completed a crash course of classes and earned his bachelor’s degree from University of New Mexico. At 42, he says he hopes to inspire other athletes to finish their degrees. He’s showing current student-athletes education is important, even for a former NBA player and first-round draft pick.
For too long, it’s been boom or bust for student-athletes leaving college early to pursue their dreams. Some make it big, like Thomas, who played 11 seasons in the NBA. Some are lucky to go as far as Giddens, who played most of his pro career overseas. Last spring, Giddens also finished his coursework and earned his UNM degree.
Thomas says it’s never too late to finish college, and he’s right. Better yet, save for extenuating circumstances like being drafted, student-athletes should avail themselves of all the educational opportunities at UNM before hitting the court of life. Education remains the great equalizer in America, and Thomas and Giddens are inspirations to finish what you start and earn that degree.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.