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Monday, June 17, 2024
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Departing Athletes Goodbye

Graduating seniors bid bittersweet adieu

A poignant NCAA commercial states: "there are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes, and most of us will go pro in something other than sports." Each graduating senior will begin searching for a job after receiving a diploma; athletes are no exception.

Fans have watched the athletes go through ups, downs, wins, losses, and injuries. When they've risen, fans have risen, and when they've fallen, fans have fallen with them. It won't be easy for UB to say goodbye, but the grand farewell will be equally bittersweet for the athletes.

"I loved my time [at UB]," said graduating men's basketball player Jawaan Alston. "Everyone is amazing. I got all the support I needed to succeed here."

British soccer player and two-time All-Mid-American Conference performer Mike Unwin is everlastingly appreciative to UB.

"UB has opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there," Unwin said. "Coming from England, I've seen you get treated so much better [at Buffalo]."

Women's basketball head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald is losing four seniors who have carried the program throughout their collegiate careers, but she isn't disheartened; she is excited for the opportunities awaiting her graduating stars.

"[The graduating seniors] are young women who are going to be extremely successful beyond college," Hill-MacDonald said. "I'm really excited for them to take the next step in their lives. They're very bright, motivated, hardworking, and loyal, and those are qualities that future employers are looking for. Without a doubt, they're going to make their mark on society."

The athletes are proud of what they've accomplished, but they aren't anxious to hang up their sneakers or pick up their pencils just yet. Out of the seven interviewed, four mentioned playing sports professionally as part of their future plans and five said they are interested in pursuing further education.

Every athlete was tremendously grateful to the UB fanbase.

"[I want to say] thanks for everything these past five years," said graduating women's basketball star Kourtney Brown. "I've had an awesome experience, and I've grown a lot."

After a record-setting career in which she became UB's all-time leading scorer among women, Brown is looking to sign with a WNBA team. In the WNBA, the Buffalo hero would face the world's best competition, such as Candace Parker and Maya Moore.

Brown isn't the only soon-to-be graduate who anticipates playing professional sports. Cornerback Josh Thomas is expected to be picked in the upcoming NFL draft. Thomas is proud to have attended UB, and he expects the experience to prepare him well for the momentous grind of playing in the NFL.

"UB has a tradition of student athletes taking advantage of academics and being coached well in order to succeed," Thomas said.

As they move forward and depart campus, a part of UB will eternally be with the competitors in their careers.

"The coaches taught me that you can always do more than you think," Alston said. "Always pursue your goals and never think they're impossible. You have to learn how to overcome adversity. Push through it and everything will work out eventually."

Future Plans for (Now Former) Buffalo Athletes

Josh Thomas—Cornerback, Football—Communication: "I'm done with my letters [of eligibility] for football and I'm entering the [NFL] draft. I'm graduating in May of 2012 with a communication degree. I'm going to take classes during the summer. After I get my Bachelor's degree, I want to get my Master's in business."

Kourtney Brown—Forward, Women's Basketball—Electrical Engineering: "I graduated last year with a degree in computer engineering. I'll get another degree this year in electrical engineering. I'm looking forward to continuing my basketball career wherever it may be—whether it's here or overseas."

Jawaan Alston—Forward, Men's Basketball--Sociology: "My first plan is to pursue playing basketball professionally overseas. If that doesn't work out, I will look into grad school and try to become an assistant coach. My ideal career would be coaching."

Mike Unwin—Forward, Men's Soccer—Sociology: "I'm looking to play professional soccer. I plan to stay here. I'm married and my wife has a baby coming in July. I'll be playing for FC Buffalo this summer until my [green card] comes, and then I'll look to sign somewhere."

Jessica Fortman—Forward, Women's Basketball—Biomedical Science: "After graduation I'm going to Marriott, Ohio for a physician assistant program that's starting June 17. It's a graduate program, and in two years I'll be able to work as a physician assistant."

Jimmy Hamel—Wrestling—Psychology: "Next year, I'll most likely be going to grad school. I'm staying around here and helping assistant coach with the wrestling team."

Mitch Zenaty—Men's Tennis—Child Development (Social Sciences): "I would like to be a college tennis coach, and I'd like to get started by being an assistant coach for a couple years. I'm doing a bunch of college tennis camps [this summer]. I'm going to Malibu, Pepperdine, and Notre Dame."




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