UT student-athletes use summer school to get acclimated to the challenges of college life
Kevin Durant, who arguably is the brightest star in Men's Basketball coach Rick Barnes' galaxy of freshmen for the 2006-07 school year, is simply just one of the student-athletes enrolled in summer school as an incoming student at The University.
The step from Montrose Christian Prep to The University of Texas is not lost on the 6-9 phenom, be it in the classroom or the basketball court.
"There is a different atmosphere here than in high school," Durant said, reflecting on the first semester of his summer school experience. "I knew that it would be and that is one of the reasons I wanted to go to summer school. I wanted to get a feel how everything would be during the school year."
Dr. Randa Ryan, the senior associate athletics director for student affairs, noted that all seven of Barnes' freshmen are attending summer school, along with Vantranique "Niqky" Hughes, a standout member of Women's Basketball coach Jody Conradt's recruiting class.
"The NCAA changing the rules to allow incoming freshman student-athletes to go to summer school prior to their first fall semester was a significant change for the better for the student-athlete," Ryan said. "Being able to come in the summer allows them to get acclimated, to get into a comfort zone, so it is not all new in the fall when all of the students are around."
It also gives the student-athletes a little breathing room before the responsibilities of their sports begin.
Ryan believes attending summer school before the start of their freshman year says a lot about the priorities of the student-athletes, regardless of sport.
"It shows that they want to build a foundation for success in academics," she began. "It shows that Kevin and Damion (James) think being in school and getting ready for their freshman year is more important than summer all-star games.
"Also, it shows a maturity that they have given up their last summer in order to prepare for the future."
James, a 6-7 forward from Nacogdoches who many considered the best player in Texas his senior year in high school, said of his decision to attend summer school, "This shows my dedication to succeed in school."
Hughes, who led Waxachachie to the Class 4A state title last spring, echoed that sentiment, noting, "Being in summer school is the sign of my commitment to academics and my commitment to being ready in every way."
Ryan explained that the student-athletes take six hours in the two sessions -- a three-hour class in each session. The first session ended July 7 and the second began July 10.
"So they get a break," Ryan said, with a hint of a laugh at the quick turnaround, which impacts the folks in her office taking care of those enrolled in summer school even more than the student-athletes themselves.
"They are in class from 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m.," she continued. "Then they're in study hall from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.. Then they eat lunch."
The student-athletes may get with the strength coaches after that.
Ryan also explained that the student-athletes coming to summer school is not a capricious, last-minute decision. She noted that there is a formal application process, with a significant financial investment on the part of The University.
"They are not just coming to hang out at UT," she said.
Ryan, whose concern is for the student-athlete beyond the sport and the classroom, notes that permitting them to attend summer school before the start of freshman year also helps to alleviate something that impacts most freshman -- being homesick.
"Not everything is coming at them at once like in the fall," Ryan said. "This makes the transition from high school a little smoother. This makes the transition away from home a little easier. Doing all of this when there are fewer students on campus and the pace is a little slower makes a huge difference in the life of a young woman or young man.
"And making this the best experience for them is why we're all here."