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In the era of One And Done college players, Damian Lillard went the distance.



With no other reason but a promise to his mom and himself, Lillard finished his college education.

How hard is it to earn a college degree?

People with a Masters or PhD act like a Bachelor’s degree was nothing, like they breezed through four years of classes and labs in their sleep.

Maybe they did.

Ask a college freshman or sophomore struggling with university credits, the classes needed before committing to their major, and the story changes.

“Will this ever end” is a common thought.

Take a look at some of the course offerings for Oregon State University freshmen and try not to seize up.

As a college graduate who started in 1973 and finished in 1991 I know academic seizures first hand.


Some call it bonehead math. If you’re not a number oriented student you might find yourself sweating out during a mid-term and leaving a wet spot on the chair.

You’ll want to walk out of class backwards.


If there’s an outside-the-class element of small group communication you might find yourself on a camping trip sharing a tent with a classmate.

You’ll have plenty to talk about later if you tent mate is your high school coach’s niece.


You’ll learn there’s more to communication than writing instructions with a booster like “Do This And Don’t Stop Until You’re Done.” Be more reasonable.

Try this: “If you can’t understand verbal instructions I can write them out. Is that what we need to do?”


Sounds soft, but very hard. Art History has it’s own language and you have to connect it to art pieces and eras.

Expect to feel like an idiot. Also expect to see Mannerism with trippy artist impressions.

If you start college and leave without a degree you are a drop-out.

You can drop back in, but you’ve got to run fast after that train leaves the station.

The drop-out tag sounds funny associated with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. One is the richest man in the world; the other started the world’s richest company.

Lillard could have handled the drop-out tag even if a max contract makes him an NBA sultan.

Instead he followed the lead of Michael Jordan who went back to North Carolina to finish his cultural geography degree.

He may follow Shaquille O’Neal who added a doctorate in education to a bachelors and masters degree. According to the Washington Post Shaq posted a 3.813 grade point average.

I like to think part of Lillard’s motivation to graduate from college came from Jerome Kersey who earned his degree later than most.

The helping hand of education.

There’s something special about older students mentoring young students, mentoring NBA players, mentoring their children.

When you say “start what you finish” and use a college degree as an example it strikes home.


“Growing up in Oakland,” Lillard said, “you see a rapper, you see a basketball player, a football player, but it was never like, ‘I’m going to get a college degree. That was never the talk. So that wasn’t something that I said I’m going to go out and do.

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become something that’s important to me. Why go to school for four years and soak up everything that I soaked up in that experience, and then not finish it, not get the ultimate goal and walk across that stage? So it’s exciting. I’m happy that I actually went through with it and finished.”

So are we, Damian. So are we. Well done.

(originally posted on

About David Gillaspie
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