All-Star, Rookie of the Year, First-Round draft pick and Big Sky Conference MVP—this is just a short list of some of the accolades that NBA guard Damian Lillard has garnered in his life, but at the end of April, he will add one more to the growing list: Weber State University graduate.
After three years of hard work, both in the NBA and at school during the off season, Lillard will be graduating with a Bachelor degree in technical sales.
“This was a lot of hard work for me, and I am excited that it has finally come to an end,” Lillard said. “Growing up, this was one of the things I never really saw myself having an opportunity to achieve, and it’s a small dream come true.”
In the NBA, it has become more and more uncommon for a player to have a college degree. In a statistical survey taken in 2009, only an estimated 21 percent of players in professional basketball had an undergraduate degree. The main reason for this trend stems from an increased number of players getting drafted earlier and earlier in their education
“This was a lofty goal that Damian set for himself,” said WSU coach Randy Rahe. “I would love to take credit for being a major part of this, but this is really a reflection of his character and the type of person that he is. Once he sets a goal, he works his hardest to accomplish it.”
Lillard is a native of Oakland, California, and after a high school career, he had few plans for college. Rahe personally was involved with the recruitment of Lillard and made a promise to his family of what was expect of him at Weber State.
“I made a promise to Damian and his parents,” Rahe said. “Being the special talent that he was, I let him know that we could help him achieve that here as a Wildcat, but it would require hard work and dedication on all parts from him. I let him and his parents know that it also meant that he would have to work hard enough to get his degree.”
Lillard said he never forgot that promise even though it became more difficult when he entered the NBA Draft.
“As I finished my junior year and I opted to enter the draft early, I knew it would be hard to accomplish the goal I had set,” Lillard said “I am so thankful that WSU and its faculty were able to work with me and help guide me along the way to graduation.”
For Lillard, the sucessful graduation from Weber State puts him in an elite category. With so few of the professional players having a degree, it opens many doors and opportunities for Lillard after his playing career ends.
“This degree and Weber State mean so much to me,” Lillard said. “I don’t have any plans to continue further right now, due to my career, but I am honored to have a diploma from WSU to take with me whereever I go. It is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.”
Barring any postseason conflicts, Lillard will recieve his diploma on May 1. Many around WSU have extended their congratulations to Lillard and wish him success with his career.
“I just want Damian to know how proud of him we are,” Rahe said. “He has grown into amazing man, and we are so proud that he finished the goal he set. We wish him luck and know that he will have a bright and sucessful future.”