The Richmond Register

Sports

December 14, 2013

OVC BASKETBALL: Former Colonel George Selden completes degree after 13 years

RICHMOND — George Selden proved on Saturday that it’s never too late to fulfill a dream.

Thirteen years after dropping out of EKU, the former Colonel basketball player was one of the more than 1,200 graduates who received diplomas during the school’s commencement ceremonies.

Perhaps no one in Alumni Coliseum had a bigger smile on their face than Selden as he soaked up the entire experience Saturday.

His iPhone never left his hand as he shared his special day, via Skype, with his two children, who were back in Las Angeles and couldn’t attend the ceremony.

Selden’s pathway to Saturday’s commencement was a winding one.

He arrived at EKU in 1999 as a ballyhooed basketball recruit with a world of athletic ability and a dream of playing in the National Basketball Association.

But after his first season with the Colonels, that dream began to unravel.

Coach Scott Perry, who recruited him, left EKU and was replaced by Travis Ford. Before ever playing a game for Ford, Selden was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules and dropped out of school.

“When Coach P. left and Travis Ford came here, I had some problems. There was a violation of team rules. Instead of finishing my degree, I left,” Selden said. “I was young and I made some mistakes. But I knew all along that I still wanted to get my degree.”

After leaving Richmond, Selden tried out for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors, but never made the league.

He eventually did play professionally in Mexico, for seven years, but his career was cut short by a back injury.

Even though he couldn’t play anymore, basketball was still in his blood, Selden said, and he knew he wanted to be around the game working with kids.

He began a business, Real Skills Basketball Training and Mentoring Services, that teaches kids not only basketball skills, but life lessons as well.

And while he enjoys what he’s doing for a living, Selden said he always knew he needed to come back to EKU and finish his degree.

He now has a family – 9-year-old Haliss and 2-year-old Kissan — and they were what finally made him decide to return to school.

“I always knew I wanted to come back. But this degree isn’t just about me. It’s about them and being able to provide a better future for them,” Selden said. “I don’t want them to see their father give up just a year away from having a college degree.”

Along with his children, there was another driving force behind his decision to return to school as well. Before their deaths, Selden said he promised both his mother and father that he would get his college degree.

Selden said that after starting a family, he began to “grow up” and thanks to his faith, began to get his life straightened up.

“Like my uncle says, everybody has their season. I have always been a man of the Lord, but I really put my faith in God and really gave my life to him and trusted him and I stopped doing the knucklehead stuff I was doing. I grew up,” Selden said. “When I did, doors started to open.”

One of those doors opened, Selden said, thanks to a phone call from the EKU athletic department telling him about an NCAA program that helps former athletes return to school to finish their degrees.

“The NCAA has something called the NCAA Degree Completion Award. I applied for it the first time but I got turned down,” he said. “I heard a message, so I applied again and everything worked out that time and I got it. And it’s been great this time around.”

The transition back to student was not a hard one, he said, because he was much more focused and mature and willing to work hard this time around.

“It wasn’t difficult at all because I wanted it this time. I studied much harder this time than I did before. I didn’t go out and play, I was home studying,” he said. “If I knew back then what I know now, and had the hunger and dedication I have now for what I want to do, I would have a masters or maybe even a doctorate.”

Now that he has his degree, Selden said he wants to continue to use his abilities to work with youngsters as a coach or work in player development for an NBA team.

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