By Grant Braden
The challenges student-athletes face are difficult for even the most intellectual. Finding the balance between games, practices and classes is demanding, and getting used to it takes time. Daniel Kelley, junior biology major with an emphasis on pre-med, was the only player on Union’s basketball team to make the NAIA Scholar-Athletes list.
In order to qualify for this honor, a student-athlete must have achieved a junior academic status and maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Being a student-athlete takes up more time than people realize. One realistically cannot simply show up for a game believing he or she can win. Hours upon hours of unseen practice go into preparing for game day.
Kelley would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to attend a two-hour practice on time. After practice, he would quickly shower and rush to make it to class on time. Game days were even more time-consuming.
“We convene five and a half hours before the actual game starts,” Kelley said. “We go through our pregame walkthrough, which includes looking at video of the other team’s plays. On days when the team traveled, it meant possibly missing class.”
Balancing basketball and studies is a struggle for any athlete, but even more so for one able to make the scholars list. Kelley has trained himself to practice different techniques to stay focused.
“I hit the library a lot,” Kelley said. “In my room I’ve learned to set the phone aside, turn off the TV and shut the computer down. I have a lot of late nights because basketball takes on average about three hours a day, but I’ve grown up playing basketball and I enjoy being with the guys.”
David Niven, head coach of the Bulldogs basketball team the past two years, said even though Kelley’s time on the floor was limited, he is a very intelligent player. Niven also spoke about Kelley making the list.
“That’s what we are all about,” Niven said. “It is a rare thing for a college basketball player to make that list. (Kelley) is just an exceptional student and probably the most dedicated guy I’ve coached.”
Niven praised Kelley’s attitude and character for sticking with the team even though he received few minutes on the floor. Niven said this shows not only the dedicated attitude Kelley brings to the court, but also the type of teammate he is, practicing each day with the starters.
Only 61 student-athletes were named to the NAIA Scholar-Athletes list. Kelley said he was honored to make it.
“(I feel) very blessed,” Kelley said. “I have always lived by the motto that anything worth having in life is not easy.”