Carter, Mavericks show pride in education

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Book sense A look at the Mavericks and their relationship toward receiving their college degree:
PlayerDegree/Hours remaining
Josh AkognonDegree is Afro Studies
Rodrigue BeauboisNo college
Elton Brand60 hours left
Vince CarterDegree in African-American Studies
Darren CollisonDegree in History
Jae Crowder18 hours left
Jared Cunningham15 hours left
Bernard JamesDegree in Economics
Mike JamesDegree in Children’s Psychology
Chris Kaman70 hours left
*Shawn Marion30 hours left
O.J. Mayo75 hours left
Anthony Morrow3 hours left
Dirk NowitzkiNo college
Brandan Wright90 hours left
*Marion has an associate degree in communications from Vincennes University, a junior college in Vincennes, Ind.

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Back on May 20, 2001, Vince Carter experienced one of those notable days that will forever be etched in his mind.

Early that morning, Carter flew from Philadelphia to Chapel Hill, N.C., so he could march across the stage and receive his college degree in African-American Studies from the University of North Carolina. Later that night back in Philadelphia, Carter missed the potential game-winning shot with 2 seconds left as his Toronto Raptors lost the decisive Game 7 of a second-round playoff series to the 76ers 88-87.

Afterward, Carter received heavy criticism for his decision to leave his team and walk across the stage to collect his degree. But he felt he owed it to himself to be there to receive what he worked so hard to achieve.

“It was a goal that I was able to accomplish while I was still fulfilling my professional career in my life,” said Carter, who is in his second season with the Dallas Mavericks. “I was able to do both at the same time, yet I was criticized for it because of the timing.

“But I was still able to accomplish both at the same day and play a decent game. Unfortunately, I missed the game-winning shot, but that’s the way it is.”

For whatever reason, athletes often have been described as “dumb jocks” who couldn’t care less about education. It’s a term that perturbs the athletes, especially those who care just as much about their educational portfolio as they do about their basketball accomplishments.

“I think everybody just automatically assumes that we just care about basketball all day, every day,” said point guard Darren Collison, who has a degree in history from UCLA. “Basketball is not our entire life.

“There are things that we have to do as far as interviews and business decisions, and this is not going to be our only job in our whole life. Some of us are going to have to find another job after we’re done playing, so at some point education matters to us, and I think it started when we came to college.”

Of the 15 Mavericks players, five already have their college degrees: Mike James, Bernard James, Josh Akognon, Carter and Collison.

In the meantime, Bernard James acknowledged that a career in the NBA — or in any sport for that matter — was the furthest thing from his mind, even in his early 20s.

“When I went to college, my focus wasn’t on basketball, it was on getting a degree,” said the center, who has a degree in economics from Florida State. “Once I set myself in a position where I knew I was going to graduate no matter what I did in my last year, then I really started focusing on basketball and making a push for the NBA.”

Most of the Mavericks who don’t have their college degree said they plan on going back and getting it. However, center Chris Kaman, who is about 70 hours shy of graduating, said: “It depends on how much money I’ve got saved up.

“That’s why you go to school, right, to make money.”

Kaman, who was majoring in sports administration and working on a minor in English and outdoor recreation at Central Michigan, takes exception when he hears people refer to athletes as “dumb jocks.” Kaman said there are different levels of intelligence in all walks of life.

“There’s some dumb people, there’s some medium people, there’s some smart people,” Kaman said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with athletes.

“I think there are some smart players in this league. I know a lot of guys I’ve played with have serious intelligence going on, and I wouldn’t call them dumb jocks at all.”

As for Carter’s decision to walk across the stage, coach Rick Carlisle, who has a degree in psychology from Virginia, said: “That’s paying homage to education, the importance of education and the symbolic importance of it in the scope of an entire life.

“And in the scope of your entire life, it’s just as important to walk down that aisle with your diploma as it is to be in a city a day-and-a-half early for a playoff game.”

Playoff game or not, Carter said if faced with the same set of circumstances he would do the exact same thing, because of the hard work and precious memories involved. He also said he didn’t consider sending his mother to walk across the stage to pick up his degree for him the way former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas did.

“My mom didn’t go to my school — I did,” Carter said. “If you win a championship you’re not going to send somebody else to go up there and get your ring.

“You’re going to receive your ring. I saw [the graduation exercises] as the same thing.”

Carter, who hails from a family of educators, said he and Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum flew to Chapel Hill for the graduation ceremonies on Tanenbaum’s private plane. Later that day, Carter played all 48 minutes in the game against the 76ers, scored 20 points and also collected seven rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks.

“I had the support of the ownership as far as just doing something positive in getting my education, but yet I was back [in Philadelphia] in time,” Carter said. “I made it to our walk-through in the morning, got my nap like normal and was ready to play the game.

“Maybe people didn’t like it, but it didn’t interrupt my day. Maybe some people are not able to fly and get their degree and then still play in the game, but I was able to do that. Maybe if I make that last shot nothing would have been said.”

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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