College basketball players perform constant balancing act

March 25, 2023

We’re nearing the end of March Madness, the tournament where 64 universities from around the country compete in a single elimination, win-or-go-home fashion. It rakes in about a billion dollars and showcases some of the best basketball talent, men and women. A team will be crowned as the national champion, and the basketball audience will countdown the next year as they anticipate the annual event.

But the journeys put in by the national champion, the 63 other teams in the dance and every college athlete in the nation are often overlooked. The lifestyles of student-athletes are easily unnoticed and forgotten. Their days are long and hard, practicing and working to perform in their athletic fields along with keeping up with their education.

According to the NCAA, student athletes average six hours and 15 minutes of sleep a night, far less than the eight hours that are recommended. Their days begin early in order to fit in everything on the agenda of their long schedule.


“It kind of ranges anywhere around 7:30 to 8:30,” SIU basketball player Trent Brown said.

Looking at basketball, we can gain a glimpse of such athlete’s day-to-day lives. They have many things to attend to in order to stay on top of their game on the court and in the classroom.

“The first thing I do is usually come to the arena…I get treatment and then work out. And then once I’m done with that, I usually head over to class…like midday, and from after class, it’s usually to practice,” SIU basketball player Marcus Domask said. “Once practice is done that’s when I’m done for the day. I go back and then look at my schoolwork and kind of do all that stuff at night.”

Brown also said homework usually comes in the late night hours.

“After a really long day, you’re kind of mentally and physically exhausted. It’s the last thing you want to do. You just want to eat and lay down and go to bed because you gotta do it all over again the next day,” Brown said. “I’d say it’s similar to probably a working student who has like a long, full, like 30 or 40 hour a week job.”

Brown and Domask were honored for their great job of balancing their books and basketball. Domask was named the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second straight year, holding a 3.99 cumulative GPA in sport administration while leading the Salukis in scoring (16.7 points per game).

“It’s an honor that carries a little bit of a different weight because it’s not just basketball. I know academics are important in life, always been important to me. So you know, to win it in back-to-back years, it’s definitely cool for me,” Domask said.


Brown was named to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Scholar-Athlete All-Second Team as he has kept a 3.91 GPA while majoring in finance. He previously made the All-First team and was awarded the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award during his sophomore year.

“It’s definitely always a good feeling… getting a little recognition is always very nice, but I definitely didn’t think I was gonna get one of those honors…it’s always nice to see your name on something like that.”

The coaching staff of the Saluki men’s basketball team preach the value of keeping up with schoolwork. These principles and standards instilled into the players are led by head coach Bryan Mullins, who acknowledges the challenge his players face, and the reward it holds.

“The biggest thing in our program is making sure that these guys are successful in life. And that starts with in the community and in the classroom. And we talk about how you doing anything is how you do everything,” Mullins said. “I talk to our guys about academics and their classes almost on a daily basis…going to class, turning in work is not negotiable in our program. And you know, the academic piece is a huge reason why I think we have success on the court is because we have success in the classroom.”

Mullins practiced what he is preaching, as he was no slouch in the classroom either while being a member of Saluki basketball. He also won the MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year back in 2009 and was a two-time Academic All-American, along with other academic accolades. Graduating with a 4.0 in finance, Mullins knows what is necessary for his players in order to succeed on and off the court.

“I think classroom success can lead to court success and I think it’s hard to fail in one area and try to be successful in the other area…in terms of taking care of the academics and being successful in the classroom, that is what is gonna make the biggest difference in these guys lives,” Mullins said. “The ball’s always gonna stop bouncing for these guys, whether it’s right after college or five years or 10 years, but they have their whole life, their whole future ahead of them. So, to get a degree to do well in the classroom, that’s the most important thing.”

“Our coaches get on us a decent amount…trying to have us stay on top of our homework and stuff like that,” Domask said.

Brown said basketball is just one tool for moving life forward.

“I think Brian does a great job…he stresses class and schoolwork a lot. I mean, if you’re falling behind like you don’t get to practice, you have too many missing assignments, you’re in trouble,” Brown said. “He’s all about school…he does a great job preaching academics within our program.”

An extreme amount of balance and discipline is required from student-athletes that is amplified with the accessibility of technology. Social media, streaming services and video games are a new wrench in our society that distracts the younger generation.

“I think the biggest difference when I played and when I went to school here to now is probably just that there’s a lot more other things in 18-to-22-year old’s lives right now you know, mainly with the social media, and just all the technology that’s available to these guys,” Mullins said. “It’s just a different college experience. It’s a different academic experience than it was when I was going to school.”

Domask said he does put his phone down sometimes.

“I think my phone can be super distracting…At the end of the day like I know the reason I’m here is to play basketball and get a degree, so you know, I feel like you just got to prioritize, just like, know your values in life,” he said.

Balancing their academics, athletics and social life is challenging, and time management is essential in order to endure their obligations.

“It teaches you to prioritize a lot of things…I think just being willing to work when you’re tired, work when you don’t want to is just big-time life skills,” Brown said.

Domask said athletes just learn how to “get stuff done quicker.”

“My freshman year, when I got back to my dorm room, I’d probably sit around for like an hour before I started something and you just kind of get used to being able to go from one thing to the next without so much downtime,” he said.

Mullins said the biggest adjustment in college is time management.

“Having a structure or having an organization with your schoolwork and your basketball, and there’s a lot of demands that student athletes go through,” Mullins said. “…Making sure that you have time to do your homework…study, and you have the right type of habits that are gonna lead to a successful academic career.”

The winners of March Madness reflect the hundreds of thousands of collegiate athletes around the country. Student athletes keeping the ability to maintain themselves is a tall task that the SIU basketball program has pushed in order to get the most out of them as players and as men.

“Marcus and Trent are two examples of guys that have been in this program for four years now that represented themselves…and this university extremely well, and their academic success is a byproduct of their families, who they are as people, and then just their work ethic,” Mullins said. “I’m really proud of those guys. They’re great ambassadors for our program and also for this athletic department.”


Sports reporter Howard Woodard can be reached at [email protected].


To stay up to date on all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.


Leave a Comment

The Daily Egyptian • Copyright 2024 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Comments (0)

All The Daily Egyptian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *