Operation Graduation

July 20, 2012

Watson joins Las Vegas City Councilmen Ricki Barlow (L) and Lawrence Weekly (R) as they pose with this year's winner of the C.J. Watson Black History Month Essay Contest

By: Talia Bargil
For NBPA.com

Brooklyn Nets guard C.J. Watson will be receiving his most treasured title this summer: college graduate.

And that’s an accomplishment the 6’2” three-point threat won’t soon forget.

“When I get my diploma, it will be hanging on my wall somewhere where I can see it everyday, and give me the inspiration to keep working hard,” Watson said.

After leaving the University of Tennessee in 2006 with 12 credits remaining, Watson has been working toward his Bachelor’s degree in psychology ever since.

The Las Vegas native said he promised his mother and grandmother that he would finish college – a promise that took tremendous dedication and sacrifice.

Going undrafted out of college, Watson headed overseas to play professionally with teams in Italy and Greece. While adjusting to life in foreign territory, the graduation-bound guard also began taking college courses online. When he returned stateside, Watson had a stint in the D-League before making it on the Golden State Warriors roster.

“It was always in me to finish up college,” he said. “But going overseas made me realize a lot more that the NBA isn’t forever. When I was there, I always was thinking about things I could do outside of basketball.”

So about three summers ago, prior to joining the Bulls squad, Watson returned to his UT campus for a few consecutive off-seasons to complete his coursework once and for all.

“Being on campus, it was hard to get back in the groove of things…going to class, getting into the books, studying. It was tough at first, but then I got used to it.”

This past year, particularly due to the unknown timing of the lockout’s conclusion, he chose to finish his very last two upper-level psychology courses online through the University of Phoenix.

“It was all worth it to be able to graduate.”

Watson, who plans to walk at next year’s graduation ceremony, says the NBPA assisted him throughout the entire process.

“We worked closely with University of Tennessee and the University of Phoenix in a number of facets, particularly in handling the logistics to ensure that C.J. was staying on track and poised to graduate,” said Deborah Murman, NBPA Director of Career Development. “He’s been a really great guy to work with and remained professional, dedicated and involved throughout the entire process.”

And Watson has big plans for his future.

“I plan to open up my own psychology practice one day. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and now that I’m actually graduating, I am taking a big step to getting there.”

He also says another step in reaching his post-playing aspirations is by networking.

“It was the way I grew up. My parents would always have me shake peoples’ hands, let them know I play basketball and tell them my GPA,” he said. “I think a big part is being in touch with reality and knowing that basketball doesn’t last forever. I need to make sure I’m ready and have the tools I need when basketball ends, whenever that may be.”

“It’s all about working hard.”

And that college diploma will be hanging front and center to remind him of just that.

Did You Know?
Watson and his family established the Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. With a mission to provide positive educational and recreational opportunities to youths, particularly those who are disadvantaged, the Foundation encourages and motivates children to read, helps children develop the foundational skills they need to become good readers, distributes books to children and encourages them to start home libraries, and provides reading instruction for parents in family literacy programs. Learn more at www.cjwatson32.com.