FELICIA CRUMP '02 WORKING ON A CLASS ASSIGNMENT WITH JEROME DYSON OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT BASKETBALL TEAM.
by Megan Metz
KEMBA WALKER ON THE COURT.
"In 2010, finals ended on May 12," Felicia Crump '02 recently told a reporter. "Kemba [Walker] was back in class on May 14. In January, he was at LeBron James' skills camp, sending me drafts of papers."
Crump '02, academic counselor to University of Connecticut's recently crowned 2011 NCAA Division I National Championship basketball team, works with the studentathletes, including tournament MVP Kemba Walker, to ensure that every member of the team does well in his academics.
"It's rewarding to see them work toward something and achieve their goals," she says. "At this level, many players come into the program with a good chance of moving on to the NBA. For them, basketball is their job, so I enjoy broadening their horizons while they're here and getting them to see their opportunities past basketball."
Crump organizes and supervises study halls and stays in constant contact with the players and their professors. And she keeps the teammates on-track during demanding—and sometimes long—road trips, including their multi-week road to the finals.
"They want to be engaged in their academics, but it's hard to find time for work with so many competing priorities," she says. "I'm definitely the one that brings them down to earth. They don't always appreciate it, but it's necessary."
"We have a great adviser in Felicia Crump," Walker told a reporter from the NCAA. Walker, a top-10 NBA draft pick this year, has joined the Charlotte Bobcats. "I had a tough transition from high school. Felicia helped me a lot with time management. She made things so much easier for me."
While a student at William Smith, Crump was a member of the soccer team, earning All- American status as a senior. But her coursework always took first priority, and she tries to pass that same value to her student-athletes. "I always want what's best for them. I want them to have the full experience, to realize themselves on the court and off the court," Crump told a reporter from the NCAA.
She credits her experience as a student-athlete with shaping her current teaching philosophy. "At William Smith, I was struck by the importance of teamwork both on and off the field," she says. "If I had a big exam coming up, my teammates would know about it and ask if they could do anything to help. I was used to the teamwork on the field, but how we functioned as one big family off the field was new to me."
Now, Crump tries to stress that same off-the-field accountability to her players—that they're responsible for each other. If she's having a hard time contacting a certain player, she'll go to the team captains and ask them to check on their teammate. If someone does well on a test, she'll mention it to a few of his teammates and tell them to say "good job."
Walker, who will graduate this August with a degree in sociology, has helped her rally the team around both academics and teamwork on and off the court. "Kemba is a special kid," she says, noting that he always shows up on time or early for study halls and practice. "The younger guys don't know any different, so they just follow suit," she says. "It's been great. Kemba has made it cool to be both smart and a great athlete."
"He could be somewhere training for the NBA right now, but he's still on campus and plans to take classes over the summer to complete his degree," she says. "Not many student-athletes in his position would have the same dedication to getting a degree."